Third boat race organised in support of the world rarest freshwater turtle.

Everyone was so excited to take part in the boat race as it has become one of the local community annual cultural festivals. Photo by: Hoang Van Ha – ATP/IMC.

On the 18th of May 2017, the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) of Indo Myanmar Conservation (IMC) worked in collaboration with Hanoi Fishery Department and Kim Son Commune Youth Union to organise the third Dong Mo boat race in Son Tay district, Hanoi, Vietnam. The race was to support conservation of the world’s rarest turtle, the Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei). In January 2016 the death of the legendary Hoan Kiem turtle (of the same species) in Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake has left Dong Mo Lake the most important habitat for Rafetus swinhoei in Vietnam. The lake also remains the only known site for the species in the world for which only three living animals are known globally.

It has been fantastic to see the boat race gradually becoming an important cultural festival in Kim Son commune where the race is held, a key commune from which most of the fishermen working on Dong Mo Lake come. In all 31 people participated in the boat race, 25 fishermen and six local women with six heats before the men’s and women’s finals. In addition, more than 300 onlookers came to support the event. A newly developed Swinhoe’s softshell turtle factsheet which highlighted the needs for urgent action to save this species was distributed during the event.  This year’s race also drew attention from local media, with Hanoi Television filming at the event.

We would like to thank Hanoi Fishery Department and Kim Son Commune Youth Union and seven volunteers from Vietnam Forestry University for their corporation and support in organising and running this third boat race. We hope to continue working with these local agencies to protect the Dong Mo Turtle. We would also like to thank Cleveland Metroparks Zoo (CMZ), the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), IUCN, British Chelonian Group (BCG) and Turtle Conservation Fund (TCF) for supporting the activity.

Date: 18th May 2017
Press release by: Hoang Van Ha and Nguyen Tai Thang – ATP/IMC.

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