A woman had to push a giant tortoise home in a wheelbarrow after finding him strolling through a field in Hertfordshire.
The incident – one of 952 incidents involving tortoises reported to the RSPCA each year – has sparked a reminder to all tortoise owners to ensure their pet is microchipped and kept in a secure enclosure.
RSPCA animal collection officer Kate Wright was called to help after the giant Sulcata tortoise was found wandering around a field near Hemel Hempstead on 16 July.
Kate said: “The woman was out walking her dog across the fields when she came across this rather large tortoise strolling down the side of a farmer’s crop field. He was obviously a long way from home.
“He is very heavy, so she had to go home to get a wheelbarrow and ask her son to lift him into it before wheeling him back home.”
The lady who found the tortoise called the RSPCA and Kate attended but, unfortunately, the tortoise wasn’t microchipped.
“We’d always encourage tortoise owners to get their pets microchipped and to ensure they are kept in a secure enclosure. While many people think of tortoises as being slow, they’re actually quite active and can move at quite a pace when they want to.
“Tortoises also climb, dig and can push their way through barriers so can be good escape artists. We receive almost 1,000 calls every year about tortoises, many of which have escaped from their homes and gone on the run.”
The Sulcata tortoise, which can grow to be up to 80cm long and weigh more than 100kg – was finally reunited with his owner who was advised to get him microchipped.
Hermann’s tortoise Rocky was rescued by the RSPCA after being found by a member of the public wandering down a road in Hendon, London on 30 May.
He was taken to the charity’s Putney Animal Hospital where staff found he was microchipped and managed to trace his owners who felt they could no longer care for him. He was signed over before being adopted by a member of RSPCA staff from West Sussex.
RSPCA senior scientific officer in exotics and wildlife trade, Dr Stephane Jayson said: “We hear stories like these all too often and our officers are regularly called to collect stray tortoises and escaped pets.
“Tortoise owners often let their pets out in the garden during the summer weather and tortoises can become very active in the warm temperatures and sunshine. It’s really important that owners keep a close eye on their pets when outside or have a secure run to keep them in to keep them safe from other animals, and to ensure they can’t escape.”
Stephanie added: “We would urge anyone thinking of getting a pet – whether it’s a hamster, dog, snake or tortoise – to properly research that animal and its needs before bringing one home.
“Tortoises can live for 100 years so it takes a lot of commitment and we urge any potential owners to thoroughly research what is required in the care of the particular species before taking one on. They will need to make sure they can give them the environment they need and that they have the facilities, time, financial means and the long-term commitment to maintain a good standard of care.”
For more information about keeping exotic animals as pets, you can visit www.rspca.org.uk.