Vietnam fears for life of 'sacred' national turtle

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Media captionPollution fear for Hanoi turtle

Veterinary experts in Vietnam are trying to save a sick giant turtle widely regarded as a national treasure.

The giant reptile, considered a symbol of the country's struggle for independence, has recently been spotted with open sores on its legs and neck.

Onlookers climbed trees at Hoan Kiem Lake near Hanoi, as divers tried to net the animal and treat it at a small island. But it eventually escaped.

It is feared that rubbish and pollution in the lake 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.

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.

The attempt to treat the animal is made more urgent as it is one of the world's most endangered turtle species. It is thought to be one of only four left in the world.

The effort to move the turtle to a special man-made island within the lake continues.