Last update 2/18/2011 4:35:09 PM (GMT+7)

Legendary turtle not to be fished out for wound treatment

 VietNamNet Bridge – While Vietnamese scientists said that the ancient turtle in Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake needs to be pulled out of the lake for treating his wounds, some international experts claimed that it is the “last solution”.

Caption: New injuries on the ancient turtle’s neck and shell recorded in late December 2010. (photo: VNE)
The first international workshop to seek solutions to protect the legendary turtle took place in Hanoi on February 15.

Taking hundreds of photos and documents collected over the past 20 years, Dr. Ha Dinh Duc said that there was something wrong with the turtle so he rose to the lake surface very often. On January 14, he resurfaced 14 times, with many wounds on his back, including the new ones on his neck and shell.

“It is very important to protect the ancient turtle. I propose to urgently fish him out to the Turtle Tower for examination and treatment to prevent his health from going down further and not to be harmed by red-eared turtles. Perhaps they are gnawing his shell,” Dr. Duc said.

He also suggested other solutions: destroy red-eared turtles in the lake to protect the ancient turtle and the ecological system of the lake, check the lake bed and water drainage systems of restaurants located around the lake, collect rubbish, improve water quality, dredge mud and ban people from releasing red-eared turtles to the lake.

A specimen of a turtle which is said to be the same species with the ancient turtle in the Hoan Kiem Lake. (photo: VNE)
Kim Van Can from the Hanoi Agriculture University said that the ancient turtle might suffer new wounds during his moving process. Since the turtle is old and weak and his body is heavy, he might hit sharp objects under the lake bed. These chafes became serious due to the polluted water.

“It is the best to bring him to the shore for curing ulcers thoroughly and treat the water environment in the lake,” Van suggested. He noted that the treatment process on land may take 5-7 days.

Most of Vietnamese scientists who attended the workshop agreed with this method. They said that the earlier the turtle is fished out, the better it will be for his health. Some proposed measures to catch him safely, even using a helicopter.

Confirming that the ancient turtle is the only of its species in Vietnam so protecting the turtle is the top priority but Timothy MCormark, the coordinator of the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) expressed his concern over the measure suggested by Vietnamese experts. He said that it is necessary to keep an eye on the turtle’s wounds. Taking the turtle out of the lake should be the last solution.

He said that the old turtle may acquire new injuries or even die if he is fished out for treatment with insufficient material facilities and veterinarian expertise. He proposed to have the support of senior international experts in this process.

According to Timothy MCormark from the Asian Turtle Program, taking the legendary turtle out of the lake for treatment is the last solution. (photo: VNE)
Dr. Nimal Fernando from the Ocean Park (Hong Kong) shared a similar viewpoint. He said that this measure may help treat the turtle’s wounds more quickly but it is risky. Moreover, separating the turtle from his familiar environment may make him suffer from stress.

He analyzed that the neutral method – rounding up a corner of the lake as the home for the turtle to treat his wounds – is ineffective because the water environment in the lake doesn’t change. He said that the optimal solution is improving the water environment of the entire lake. Clean environment will be good for the turtle and the wounds may heal themselves.

“This method takes more time but it is harmless for the turtle,” he said.

With ten years researching turtles and three years conducting research on the giant turtle species in China, Dr. Nimal Fernando said that Vietnam should collect more pictures of the turtle’s injuries to have accurate assessment of his health.

“Based on the current pictures, I can’t make a treatment plan for him. In case we must bring him to the shore for treatment, it may take up to six months,” he said.

After listening to opinions of scientists, the Director of the Hanoi Department of Science and Technology Le Xuan Rao confirmed that the agency would immediately implement what it can do to protect the turtle, including cleaning the lake bed, improving the water quality, taking up waste water pipes, etc.

He said that the bank of the Turtle Tower in mid-Hoan Kiem Lake will be rebuilt to enable the turtle to climb up and expose himself to the sun. He also said that it is unsuitable to bring him to the shore for treatment at the moment.

Until now, the age and the sex of the old turtle are not defined yet. Most of scientists said that he can’t have lived for 700 years (since King Le Loi dynasty, the time the legend about the turtle began) but he must be between 100-300 years old.

Mcormark said that the lifespand of hard shell turtles is 175. It is unclear for the old turtle in Hoan Kiem Lake, which belongs to soft shell turtle species.