Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Zoo Finds Mythical Turtle

From the announcement:

"Cleveland Metroparks Zoo today announced the discovery of a critically endangered turtle in northern Vietnam that previously was thought to be extinct in the wild. Experts from the Zoo's Asian Turtle Program confirmed they have identified the only known living specimen of a Swinhoe's soft-shell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) in nature.
"After three years of searching, Zoo-sponsored researchers focused on a lake just west of Hanoi after residents reported spotting the gigantic turtle there. Field biologists, along with Education for Nature in Vietnam, found and photographed the turtle, allowing scientists to verify it was the rare Swinhoe's soft-shell turtle, which is considered a national treasure in Vietnam."

From the news:

"
The discovery represents hope for the species, said Doug Hendrie, the Vietnam-based coordinator of the zoo program.
"Turtle expert Peter Pritchard, president of the Chelonian Research Institute, confirmed the find based on a photo Hendrie showed him.
"'It looked like pretty solid evidence. The animal has a pretty distinctive head,' Pritchard said.
"There have been rumors for years of a mythical creature living deep in the waters of a northern Vietnam lake. Some in a village west of Hanoi claimed to be blessed by catching a glimpse of it's concave shell as it crested above the surface of their lake.
"A national legend tells of a giant golden turtle that bestowed upon the Vietnamese people a magic sword and victory over Chinese invaders in the 16th century. Whether that sacred turtle has materialized in the 21st century will be a matter of cultural debate among the Vietnamese."

(And, yes, other bloggers' opinions notwithstanding, mythical is a perfectly proper word to use in the context of many mystery animals or animals with folkloric connotation. Further, the use of the term myth may be used in a derogatory manner in some popular usage, but in academic usage has no relevance to factual basis.)

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