Wednesday , October 4 2023

Critically endangered tortoises at HCMC pagoda to return to nature

Eleven endangered elongated tortoises, along with other rare turtle species kept at a pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1, will be released back into the wild.

Employees of the HCMC forest protection department, along with practitioners at Phuoc Hai Pagoda, on Wednesday brought the turtles residing in a pond at the pagoda back on land. Each of them would be weighed and classified before being brought to the Cu Chi animal rescue center, before finally being released into the woods.

The 62 turtles and tortoises belong to eight species, all rare and endangered, rangers said. The 11 elongated tortoises are classified as critically endangered according to the IUCN Red List.

A representative of the pagoda said people continue to release turtles and tortoises at the pagoda as a habit, despite having been recommended not to do so.

Life release is a traditional Buddhist practice of saving the life of animals destined for slaughter. In Vietnam, the practice has been exploited to serve the trade of wild animals. Many Buddhism followers would buy birds and turtles sold in cages on the streets to bring to pagodas to perform release rituals.

Such practice would only help illegal animal trafficking thrive, the pagoda’s representative said.

Back in July, several pagodas in HCMC handed over 40 turtles and tortoises, many of them endangered, to local authorities.

The capture and sale of turtles and tortoises without appropriate papers to prove their origins are punishable by up to 12 years in jail, in accordance with Vietnamese law.

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