The country’s lax enforcement of wildlife regulations are putting the lives of Hoan Kiem (Rafetus swinhoei) turtles’ at risk of complete extinction, said Hoang Van Ha, a researcher from the Asian Turtle Conservation Program.
|The tortoise caught in Dong Mo Lake|
The Hoan Kiem turtle is one of the most famous and rarest species of tortoise globally. There are just four left in the entire world, including two in Vietnam: one in Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake and anther in Dong Mo Lake. The other two are living in a Chinese zoo.
The turtle in Hoan Kiem Lake has been observed rising to the surface frequently since the beginning of the year, said Ha. But scientists worry about the animal’s health and the environmental condition of the lake.
In Dong Mo Lake, the sole turtle is also feared to be in danger as water levels have continued to drop due to drought conditions. According to Dong Mo Lake’s management broad, the lake is losing water by the day because of prolonged hot, dry weather.
Meanwhile, to ensure there is enough water for farmers to grow rice at lower areas of the lake, Hanoi’s Tich River Irrigation Company has been releasing lake water at twice the normal rate, exacerbating the problem.
Doan Van Tien, a resident in Dong Mo, said the dropping water levels in the lake also put the turtle at risk of being illegally captured or hunted by locals.
Nguyen Quang Manh, chairman of the Son Tay city People’s Committee, said it was important to protect the species and asked locals to monitor the turtle and make sure that no one tried to catch it.
Hanoi’s Agriculture and Rural Development Department, meanwhile, has asked provinces in lower areas of the lake to limit the release of water from Dong Mo Lake.
According to Ha, if urgent protection measures are not taken, the country stands to lose much of its unique biodiversity and ecosystem.