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For tortoise, terrapin and turtle care and conservation

Turtle in Danger : Vietnam Swinhoe's soft-shell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) is under threat.

A training workshop introducing eDNA (environmental DNA) and smartphone-based testing for the Swinhoe’s Giant Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), also known as Hoan Kiem turtle, took place at Dong Mo and Xuan Khanh lakes from April 26 to May 9, 2018. This project is a pilot initiative for increasing the ability to find Rafetus swinhoei, and is a joint collaboration by the Asian Turtle Program - Indo Myanmar Conservation (ATP), the Central Institute for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (CRES) and the Wildlife Conservation Society - Viet Nam program (WCS Viet Nam).

eDNA stands for environmental DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid a.k.a. ADN in Vietnamese) and is shed from organisms living in an environment. A new handheld molecular test kit to detect eDNA from water samples has been developed by WCS, to search for cryptic endangered species. This new quick, portable and field-friendly platform for eDNA testing kit will bring new hope for finding more individuals of Hoan Kiem Turtle in the wild, and make the collection and testing of water samples easier by allowing eDNA testing directly at the water source.

Watch the video at:

The giant soft -shelled turtle is under threat from the pollution in the Hoan Kiem lake where it lives. This is one of the rarest turtles in the world and is therefore very precious.

Swinhoe Turtle

Photo Tim McCormack: Rescued turtle 2008

The Hanoi government are trying to clear the lake from some pollution

‘Hanoi takes action to save legendary turtle’

‘VietNamNet Bridge – As of February 27, clean water has been pumped into the Hoan Kiem Lake, sand bags have been carried to the turtle tower to prepare for the treatment of the old turtle.’….. More Information

Tim McCormack wrote that some recommendations for the Rafetus in Hoan Kiem Lake been suggested following the discussions at the tortoise and freshwater turtle regional workshop held in Singapore this week (27th Feb). ‘The animal does seem to be sick with visible injuries and is seen daily exhibiting unusual behaviour. The quality of the lake water is apparently also in very bad condition, Ph 9 -11 and blue green algae.’

There is a plan to catch the turtle and treat it for the ulcers and other ailments that have been seen but the catching and treatment will be very traumatic and as Tim says the animal appears to be very sick


The following links will show the failed attempt to capture the turtle More Information

Another attempt will be made in the next few days.

Anne Rowberry

Update 3rd April 2011

Good news, today the Hoan Kiem Turtle has been successfully captured.

The capture team were able to quickly place a large holding net around the turtle once it was observed. It took a few hours following this to reduce the area within the net and place a second smaller net to restrict the turtle so it could be placed in a net and pole cage. It was then moved in the water between two boats to the island where it could be winched into the small holding and treatment tank. A second much larger holding tank has also been built next to the lake, this looks like it will float.

The assessment of the injuries and health of the turtle can now be investigated. The BCG has offered help.

Congratulations to the whole team working on the project

Update 7th April 2011

Good News about the rare Hoan Kiem turtle;

From initial vet assessments it seems most of the injuries are thought to be superficial, it has been recieving topical treatment.
The photos are available here

Scientists are waiting for results of blood and tissue cultures to find out if it requires any additional treatment. If it is found that the turtle is not septicaemic and has no serious infections the plan is for a short term holding of just a few weeks. (this may mean the sex of the turtle can be established.)

The turtle is eating whilst being held and there are plans to consider stocking the lake with more fish.

Anne Rowberry

Update 2020

Female Turtle found - more information