It took a few dozen people, including Special Forces soldiers, to capture this sacred giant turtle

This massive turtle, weighing 440 pounds, was pulled out of Hanoi's Ho Hoan Kiem, or Lake of the Returned Sword, by a few dozen people, including Special Forces soldiers, using three nets.

Vietnamese legend has it that a giant turtle in that same lake — possibly the exact same turtle — retrieved a magic sword that had been given to the king, Le Loi, in the 15th Century, and Le Loi used that sword to win independence from China's Ming Dynasty. The lake was named after the turtle's feat, and Hanoi was built up around it.

At the very least, the giant turtle may be more than 100 years old, and it's one of the last surviving members of the endangered Rafetus Swinhoei family of turtles. In recent months, the turtle has been surfacing twice as often as it used to, and people have noticed pink sores on its shell, neck and feet. Hence the massive rescue operation to retrieve it, so it can receive medical treatment. It evaded two nets, but a Special Forces soldier rode on its shell and steered it into the third.

According to Reuters:

Experts believe the turtle, weighing some 200 kg (440 lb), may be suffering the effects of pollution, snaggings by fish hooks, attacks from smaller red ear turtles that have proliferated in the lake, or all three.

"Generally, the turtle is fine and stable," turtle expert Ha Dinh Duc, part of the capture operation and a member of a steering committee set up to make decisions about the elderly animal, said after it was ensnared.

Thousands of people crowded around the lake to watch.

The case of the giant turtle has drawn attention to the effects of runaway environmental degradation and pollution in Vietnam. Photos by AP/Na Son Nguyen.

It took a few dozen people, including Special Forces soldiers, to capture this sacred giant turtle

It took a few dozen people, including Special Forces soldiers, to capture this sacred giant turtle

It took a few dozen people, including Special Forces soldiers, to capture this sacred giant turtle

It took a few dozen people, including Special Forces soldiers, to capture this sacred giant turtle