|Rest in peace: The sacred turtle of the Sword Lake passed away on the afternoon of January 19, causing shock to not only Hanoians but also Vietnamese people across the country. — Photo zing.vn
HA NOI (VNS) — The turtle living in Hoan Kiem Lake, a sacred symbol of Ha Noi that has been associated with many legends, passed away on Tuesday.
Many Vietnamese in general and Hanoians in particular have mourned over the death of the legendary animal, which had survived through the many ups and downs of the country.
"The most recent emergence of the 'Great Turtle' was on December 21, which lasted over two hours for sunbathing," Ha Noi's biologist Ha Dinh Duc said.
He added that he has been overwhelmed with sadness and regret of losing something sacred that is closely associated with his life and that of Hanoians.
"I learned about its death very suddenly," he said.
According to Duc, the retired biology professor of Ha Noi National University, who has spent over 20 years monitoring the rare turtle in the lake, the reason for its death has not been identified yet.
As an animal that has been closely connected with the spiritual and cultural life of the Vietnamese, each emergence of the turtle on the lake is believed to be an omen for an upcoming significant social event, and its death therefore has drawn much attention from the public and local media, he said.
However, Duc said that there should not be any misleading inference from the event.
He himself has witnessed the sacred turtle surfacing many times, the last of which was when the turtle was brought ashore for treatments for bites caused by red-eared sliders.
Speaking of the possible embalmment of the deceased turtle, Duc said that the final decision will be made by the city authorities.
At present, the turtle's body is being preserved in the Viet Nam National Museum of Nature before being treated for long-term preservation.
Symbol of peace
The professor also supported the idea of keeping the turtle's body in the museum for future generations, "because it is the symbol of peace and independence, which is significantly valued by all Vietnamese in general and Hanoians in particular".
Despite eyewitness sigh-tings of one or two more turtles, Prof Duc said he believed that "there aren't more any turtle of its kind left in Hoan Kiem Lake."
He had twice proposed to Ha Noi's administrators to recognise the turtle of Sword Lake as a national treasure that needed preservation and frequent health checks.
He also suggested enlisting the turtle into the Viet Nam's Red Data Book, a list of rare and endangered species of fauna and flora native to Viet Nam.
Measured 1.26m long,1.03m wide and 169kg weight, the turtle, according to legends, originated from the central province of Thanh Hoa, the hometown of King Le Loi (1384-1433), and was released into the lake by the King. It has been therefore affectionately known to locals as "Cu Rua", meaning "great great grandfather turtle" in Vietnamese. — VNS