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Swinhoe Soft Shell Turtles

Updated on February 10, 2014

The Swinhoe Soft Shell Turtle - A Living Vietnamese Legend

The Swinhoe Soft Shell Turtle is one of the rarest turtles in the world: there were only 5-6 known alive, all of whom were in captivity until April 2008 when one was discovered in the wild of Vietnam. This makes them distinctly one of the rarest turtles in the world and a critically endangered species.

Vietnamese Legends, Myths, and Folklore - There are many great Vietnamese stories out there

The Giant Turtle is just one legend from a rich folklore.

The Dragon Prince: Stories and Legends from Vietnam
The Dragon Prince: Stories and Legends from Vietnam

Want to know more about Vietnam stories, parables, an legends? This book is the perfect fi for the inquiring mind!


The Swinhoe Soft Shell Turtle as Vietnam's Savior..

The protective legend of the turtle who will defend Vietnam.

In Vietnam there is a legend that has become part of the national culture about a great giant golden turtle that gave the Vietnamese a magic sword, which allowed the Emperor to lead them to a victory over the Chinese invaders of the 1500's.

In Vietnam, the same nation where the Guiness Book of World Records recorded several 800+ lb catfish in isolated parts of the country, there have been rumors for decades about a mythical creature living in the deepest part of a north Vietnamese lake.

To local scientists, it had to sound like local superstition, especially when some rural villages west of the city of Hanoi claimed to be blessed after catching a glimpse of the mythical creature as its shell emerged from the lake.

To their pleasant surprise, the reason the creature seemed mythical was the fact that less than 10 exist in the entire world - meaning the real life turtles are so rare as to almost be legendary.

At Turtle Lake there is one more part to the legend that has some of the people of Vietnam imagining. The legend goes that the turtle took the sword back after victory, and when danger threatens again, a giant turtle will return with the sword.

Seeing as how there's no sword on the shell, that's a good sign for the country, becuase at least according to legend, there's no danger immediately near.

Swinhoe's Soft-Shell Turtle Description

Basic facts about the world's most endangered turtle

Common Name: Swinhoe's Soft-shell

Scientific Name: Rafetus swinhoei

First Scientifically Catalogued: 1873

Conservation Status: Critically endangered - on the 2006 IUCN Red List, probably the rarest turtle in the world

Habitat: Large river systems and associated wetlands and lakes in Southeast Asia (South China and north Vietname)

More about Rafetus swinhoei:

There are only seven living specimens of the species known to exist as of 2004. Five are in China including one in the Beijing Zoo, one in the Shanghai Zoo, one in the Suzhou Zoo, and two in the Western Gardens of a temple in Suzhou.

The sixth living Swinhoe Turtle lives in Hoan Kiem Lake in the center of Hanoi, Vietnam, and the seventh is only the recently discovered turtle in Northern Vietnam (and the only known Swinhoe in the world still in the wild).

Distinguishing Features: A deep head with a very distinctive pig-like snout. The eyes seem somewhat askew as they are dorsally placed.

So What Do You Think of the Legendary Turtle?

So what do you think of this turtle?

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Swinhoe Turtle Number 7 Discovered

A "Mythical Creature" turns out to be a real turtle of legend

Researchers from the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo who have been working on preserving the extremely rare turtles in northern Vietnam have discovered an extremely rare giant turtle.

Swinhoe's soft-shell turtle was previously thought to be extinct in the wild. There are several of the turtles in captivity, but less than ten estimated alive in the entire world. There is a photograph that suggests there is another one in the wild in southern China, though that is unconfirmed.

The discovery gives some degree hope for the species, giving the hope that maybe there are some more in the wild who will be able to reproduce.

There had been stories of a "mythical creature" in a northern Vietnamese lake, and the scientists found to their delight that this "mythical creature" was a true turtle, and one of the rarest in the world.

Turtle Stuff from eBay - For various turtle fans

You never know what type of turtle stuff you'll find on eBay.

Please feel free to leave a comment. So what do you think of the rarest turtles on Earth?

Legandary Vietnamese Turtle: What Do You Think? - Might be a legendary turtle, but not mythical yet...

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    • AlexTedford profile image

      AlexTedford 4 years ago

      Incredible lens! I never knew so much about turtles as I do now!