Vietnam hauls in beloved turtle for medical treatment

Vietnam's favourite turtle swims in Hanoi's Lake Hoan Kiem, 3 April
Image caption The turtle evaded capture for months

An ailing giant turtle revered as a symbol of Vietnam's independence has been captured for medical treatment.

Thousands of people crowded around a lake in the capital Hanoi as about 50 rescuers swam and used boats to pull nets around it.

The turtle, which is believed to be more than 100 years old, has open sores on its neck and legs.

Its plight has made headlines in Vietnam for several months but it evaded earlier rescue attempts.

It is feared that rubbish and pollution in Lake Hoan Kiem may have caused its wounds.

Another theory is that the sacred reptile, which weighs about 200kg (440 pounds), has been injured by fishermen's hooks and other smaller turtles over the course of several years.

'Fine and stable'

Three nets of varying sizes were used to finally bring the turtle under control.

Some rescuers swam with the netted reptile, leading it into a cage which was escorted by two boats to an island where the turtle's condition is to be assessed.

Image caption The giant turtle is said to be between 80 and 100 years old

"Generally, the turtle is fine and stable," said turtle expert Ha Dinh Duc.

Official Vietnamese media have said the turtle, known reverentially as "the great grandfather", may be as much as 300 years old, although experts estimate it is more likely 80-100 years old.

"You could say it is a representative of the country so bringing the turtle up for treatment is a necessity," said Luu Tien Xuan, 78, a Hanoi resident.

"The people are concerned. The leaders are concerned... It would be sad if Ho Guom [another name for the lake] didn't have the turtle in it anymore."

More on this story