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A turtle believed to be the reincarnation of a God has been born with a golden shell.
The creature, which has “significant religious value”, was found in a village in south-east Nepal and identified as an Indian Flapshell turtle.
It got its colour from the ultra-rare genetic mutation chromatic leucism, which causes a loss of colour pigmentation.
It usually results in white, pale or patchy skin, but can also trigger yellow pigments.
Reptile expert Kamal Devkota said: "Not only golden animals but turtles overall have significant religious and cultural value in Nepal.
"It is believed that Lord Vishnu took the form of a turtle to save the universe from destruction in his incarnation.
"In Hindu mythology, the upper shell of the turtle denotes the sky and lower shell denotes earth."
Vishnu's turtle avatar, known as Kurma, is today worshipped in a number of temples in India.
Mr Devkota, from the Nepal Toxinology Association, added: "This is my first encounter with this unusual colour of turtle.
"This is the first record in Nepal of chromatic leucism in this turtle, Lissemys punctata andersoni, and only the fifth in the species worldwide.
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"So, we can say that this is one unusual discovery!"
After being documented, the turtle was released into the wild, though survival could be tough.
"Colour aberrations are quite rare in nature because the affected individuals may be disadvantaged in their environment," Mr Devkota explained.
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"For instance, a normal Lissemys punctata is much better camouflaged in the murky, greenish, aqueous environment the species frequents.
"Genetically driven conditions such as chromatic leucism would be exposed to intense negative selective pressure in nature.
"But such aberrant animals are highly valued in the pet trade."
The turtle was found in Dhanushadham Municipality, part of Nepal's Dhanusha District.
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