Hanoi’s sacred symbol is in danger of becoming extinct because of polution in the city’s central lake (Hoan Kiem Lake) — the residence of one of four known remaining rare, giant freshwater turtles (the other three are in zoos).
The effort to save the 440-pound, 80-plus-year-old turtle includes cleaning up debris, pumping fresh water into the lake, using sandbags to expand a tiny island, and the possibility of netting the animal that some even believe is the mythical creature that helped a Vietnamese king fend off the Chinese nearly six centuries ago.
The lake, nearly one mile in circumference surrounded by a beautiful park and including a curved red bridge leading to a temple, is being overwhelmed by tourists and Hanoians. Biologists say the turtle has been injured by debris thrown in the lake and sickened by poor water quality.
According to legend, Chinese invaders were defeated in the 15th Century because the gods gave the Vietnamese leader a magic sword, which a giant golden turtle later snatched before plunging deep into the water to return it to its divine owners.
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