Body of Hanoi giant turtle remains in cold storage as preservation plans undecided

One month on, the body remains in the cold storage room, with a temperature of 15 below zero degrees Celsius, as the Hanoi administration has yet to decide what should be done

The giant turtle is seen when it is taken for health check in this 2011 file photo.

One month after its death, the body of the giant turtle in Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake is still preserved at cold temperatures, as authorities have yet to decide on the mummification method for the creature.

The legendary turtle was found dead on the afternoon of January 19, apparently due to old age as well as the then cold weather in the Vietnamese capital city.

Its body was then moved to the Vietnam National Museum of Nature, a museum under the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, pending an official preservation method.

One month on, the body remains in the cold storage room, with a temperature of 15 below zero degrees Celsius, as the Hanoi administration has yet to decide what should be done, according to the museum director.

“Fifteen below zero degrees Celsius is the best possible environment to keep the body,” Dr. Nguyen Minh Trung was quoted by VnExpress as saying on Friday.

“It is not simple to mummify the turtle so intensive consideration is inevitable.”

The Vietnam National Museum of Nature and the Hanoi Department of Science and Technology have proposed three methods to preserve the turtle body, according to the director.

They include wet and dry mummification, and plasticization.

The wet method means soaking the animal in chemicals or alcohol, whereas the dry one seeks to preserve both the skin and flesh of the corpse, Trung said. In the meantime, the plasticization requires consultant from foreign experts, he added.

Dr. Vu Ngoc Thanh, an animal expert, told VnExpress that the wet method is not feasible as it requires constantly chemical changes, while the plasticization is too expensive.

He thus suggests the turtle be dry mummified, as is another giant turtle in the same lake that died in 2010.

The idea was echoed by Assoc. Prof. Ha Dinh Duc, a Hanoi pundit who has extensively studied turtles at Hoan Kiem Lake in the last two decades.

Duc suggests that the turtle, once mummified, should be put next to the mummified turtle that died in 2010, which is now on display at Ngoc Son Temple on Hoan Kiem Lake.

The Hoan Kiem turtle had long been a symbol of the capital city, reflecting its culture and longstanding history.

The last time the turtle was spotted alive on the surface of the lake was on December 21 last year, according to VnExpress.

As of 2011, the turtle’s body length was recorded at 185cm, weighing 169kg.

The turtle’s shell reached 100cm, while the length of its tail was 35cm.

Stories of the Hoan Kiem turtle began in the fifteenth century with Le Loi, who became an emperor of Vietnam and founder of the Le Dynasty.

The legend said that Le Loi had a magic sword given to him by Kim Qui (The Golden Turtle God) to repel the invading Chinese forces.

One day, not long after the Chinese had accepted Vietnam’s independence, Le Loi was out boating on a lake in Hanoi.

Suddenly a large turtle surfaced, took the sword from Le Loi, and dove back into the depths. Efforts were made to find both the sword and the turtle, but without success.

Le Loi then acknowledged the sword had gone back to the Golden Turtle God and renamed the lake Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Returned Sword).

The turtle is affectionately known as “Cụ Rùa,” meaning “great grandfather turtle” in Vietnamese.

Hoan Kiem Lake is also known as Guom Lake (Sword Lake).

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