The first annual boat race to compete for the “Golden Ores” was held on Dong Mo Lake, Son Tay District, Hanoi on the 23rd of October 2010. The large lake measuring 1,400 Hectares has the only known wild population of the critically Endangered Swinhoe’s Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) of which only four animals are currently known globally. More famously known in Vietnam as the Hoan Kiem Turtle for the giant animal which still inhabits Hoan Kiem Lake in central Hanoi.
The species historically occurred in southern China and Northern Vietnam but loss of habitat and hunting in recent decades has pushed the species to the brink of extinction. The Asian Turtle Program (ATP) of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has been conducting research to try and locate additional Hoan Kiem Turtles in the wild and conduct community activities such as school programs and community meetings around Dong Mo with the local partner NGO Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV). The boat race is a new activity to bring the community together at Dong Mo Lake to celebrate this beautiful location and the important turtles that survive here.
During the race 32 local fishermen and local women participated in the race, sprinting the 300m course in traditional fishing boats rowed using their feet. In a close final heat five competitors were closely tied with the winner coming home in 2’27”, Mr Nguyen Quoc Quan from Nghe Son village, Son Tay district. With over 100 spectators for the event everybody is looking forward to a second chance to shine in the 2010 golden ores race.
Prior to the boat race on the 22nd October a school program was held for 85 students from three classes in Kim Son Secondary School. A special Hoan Kiem Turtle lesson plan has been developed to help students learn about the unique animals they live so near. The school program and an additional community meeting have also been completed in Thanh Hoa Province at a second site the team are focusing on.
In addition to awareness activities undertaken at Dong Mo Lake monitoring and surveys have continued. During 2010 the local team has observed the large softshells on four occasions photographing twice. On the 5th of December a large softshell was seen basking on a small island in the lake.
We would like to thank all those who have supported our work and the Rafetus swinhoei Project. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), Birdlife International, Columbus Zoo as well as local partners and agencies, Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) for making this activity possible.