This article was the second former cryptid article created on this Wiki.
|Hoan Kiem Turtle|
|First Sighting||Ancient times|
|Last Sighting||December 21 2015|
|Habitat||Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi|
|Possible Population||Very Small/None|
The Hoàn Kiếm turtle was a former cryptid softshell turtle that lived in Hoàn Kiếm Lake, Hanoi in Vietnam. The turtle was an important figure in Vietnam mythology, leaving many to once believe it was purely cryptozoological. Its existence was proven when it was caught on camera on March 24, 1998.
According to Vietnamese legend, emperor Lê Lợi along with his magic sword "Thuận Thiên" (meaning Heaven's Will) was boating on the lake when a golden turtle God named Kim Qui surfaced from the water. Kim Qui asked for Lê Lợi's sword which had been lended to him by the Dragon King Long Vương. Lê Lợi concluded that the Dragon King was Kim Qui's master who came to collect the sword. He gave the sword to the turtle who ascended back into the water along with the sword. To commemorate this event, Lê Lợi renamed the lake from Luc Thuy (Green Water) to Hoàn Kiếm (Lake of the Returned Sword).
Near the centre of the lake is a tower known as Turtle Tower (or Tháp Rùa) which is also linked to the legend.
Sightings and Rediscovery
Prior to it's discovery, people had many reports about sighting turtles in the lake. Some even described it as being "monstrous" or even the golden turtle from the legends.
On June 2, 1967, a Hoàn Kiếm turtle climbed to shore and was injured by a fisherman with a crowbar. The turtle later died of it's injuries but was said to be 200 kg (440 lbs), measured 1.9 metres long (6 ft 3 in) and more than 500 years old. This turtle has been embalmed and is now on display in the Temple of Jade Mountain which is near the lake.
On March 24, 1998, an amateur cameraman caught a turtle on video, proving it's existence for the first time. This footage was aired on Vietnamese television and also stated that it had made a second appearance on April 5.
In 2000, professor Hà Đình Đức, who had been researching the turtles for decades, gave it the name Rafetus leloii after the legend. The Hoàn Kiếm turtle was later proven to be the Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), a critically endangered species of turtle native to southern China and northern Vietnam. Duc, however, disagrees with this and believes it to be a new species altogether. He is against the idea of crossbreeding turtles of the two kinds.
The Last Turtle
Although two (sometimes three) turtles had been reported, professor Duc believed there was only one turtle still alive in the lake. This last turtle was known to locals as Cụ Rùa, meaning great grandfather turtle.
In the spring of 2011, concerns for the turtles health had increased after it was noted it had multiple wounds and lesions on it's body. Cụ Rùa had also been reported on frequently surfacing for air. City authorities then attempted to catch the turtle and take it in for medical treatment. On February 9, local turtle farm operator, KAT Group, was commissioned to prepare a suitable net to capture it with. The first attempt of capture was done on March 8, which failed as the turtle broke free from the net. On April 3, the turtle was successfully capture by a team of 50 workers. It was placed into an enclosure constructed on a small island in the middle of the lake for treatment. According to scientists involved, the turtle was determined to be female and genetic research suggested it was a distinct species to the Yangtze giant softshell turtle (which is not widely accepted by most experts).
After it's health had improved, Cụ Rùa was released back into the lake in July 2011. However, Hoàn Kiếm Lake was found to be toxic and full of pollution. Dredging the lake, to clean up its bottom, was carried out in March 2011. Concerns for the turtles health continued after it had surfaced six times in January 2015 alone. Cụ Rùa was last seen alive on 21 December 2015. The turtle was found dead on 19 January 2016 and was believed to be over 100 years. It's death was deeply mourned and was considered a tragic environmental and cultural loss. After it's death, Cụ Rùa was embalmed and now resides in the Temple of Jade Mountain next to the previous embalmed turtle.
Although no more Yangtze giant softshell turtles live in Hoàn Kiếm Lake, at least one (with the possibility of a second) has been spotted in Dong Mo Lake, twenty miles to the northwest of the lake. This turtle was captured and confirmed to be female. Five to six living individuals of the Yangtze giant softshell turtle are thought to be left, one in captivity in China and three to four wild turtles in Vietnam.