A 28 strong troop of tiny baby tortoises that were found being smuggled into the UK are getting their happy ever after here at Blackpool Zoo.
The Sulcata Tortoises were seized by Borderforce and collected from Heathrow by the zoo’s specialist reptile staff at the beginning of October.
They were temporarily homed in a custom fit holding area whilst keepers got to work on redeveloping an area within the reptile barn. They are now happily living their new home and have been a big hit with the visiting public.
All 28, which are under one year old and just a couple of inches long could get as big as ten stone and live up to a whopping 100 years.
The species is classed as vulnerable in the wild and experts believe that their numbers are decreasing at a dramatic rate.
Johnpaul Houston, Assistant Head Keeper, said: “We have built a fantastic relationship with Borderforce over the years and work closely with them to rehome any seized reptiles.
“This species of tortoise does not make a good pet, but people don’t understand that when they buy a cute little reptile from the pet shop.
“Without a very strictly controlled diet they can grow too quickly and become dramatically deformed.
“In America, this species has been known to burrow under houses and cause them to collapse by ruining the foundations!
“We have given them all names now, including Squirtle from Pokemon and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle names too, and each has their own care plan that will follow them through life.
“It is funny to think that these little tortoises will be around for a long time after anyone who currently works at the zoo!”
The group of tortoises is the second largest haul of animals the zoo has ever collected from a UK airport. The largest collection was over 50 Southern Painted Turtles babies in 2008.