Giant African tortoises find a new home in Highlands

A wildlife centre based at Cantraybridge College near Croy, on the outskirts of Inverness, has been forced to expand in a bid to make a new home for three rescued exotic tortoises.

The tortoises in their new home with Jack Mackay (Forest Enterprise Scotland), Nick Martin (Scottish Exotic Animal Rescue) and Kieran Calderwood (Scottish School of Forestry student).

Students from Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES) in Inverness helped the Scottish Exotic Animal Rescue charity build a new pen for the massive creatures.

The FES team in Inverness was contacted by Nick Martin, who for 20 years has run SEAR, who had just travelled to Edinburgh to collect three African spur-thighed Sulcata tortoises, whose owner was no longer able to look after them.

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Nick said: “We provide sanctuary for hundreds of exotic animals of all species. We regularly take animals in from the SSPCA, from members of the public and also from Police Scotland and HM Customs & Excise when illegally imported animals are impounded at UK airports.

“hese tortoises are already very big but they’ll grow to four or five times this size within their lifetime and our current facilities just aren’t up to the job of looking after them.

“They’re temporarily housed in our main building but we urgently needed to build an outdoor pen for them to give them room to roam outdoors when the weather improves.

“It will be good for their well-being and will also let us open our doors to visitors during school holidays, which is an essential income stream for the charity to keep doing our good work.”

The Sulcata tortoises, which naturally live in a semi-desert like environment and climate, don’t hibernate and so need to be protected from the weather in a specially built shelter.

With a shed already donated, the team at FES offered some timber to help build an enclosure pen around the shed.

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Jack Mackay for the FES team in Inverness, said: “Our day-to-day work always has an element of wildlife protection in it and we do a lot to improve the lot of key Scottish species, but I’m pretty sure that we’ve never before helped improve the lot of African tortoises.

“SEAR does a fantastic job of looking after some fascinating animals, insects and birds and we were more than happy to help out.”

Students from the Scottish School of Forestry helped to build the enclosure.

The centre opens its doors to the public Wednesday to Sunday from 12-4 during the Easter Holidays.