‘I don’t believe it!’: Family bought Victor the ‘common’ tortoise 14 years ago only to discover he was rare giant breed who now weighs NINE STONE
- A family bought an ordinary tortoise only to discover it was a Sulcata tortoise – which grew to a whopping nine stone
- The size of the incredible creature forced the family to give it away
- Luckily, farmer Andy Browne stepped in to take care of the tortoise at his home in Highworth, Wiltshire
A family who bought a ‘common’ tortoise from a local D.I.Y shop were shocked to discover that it was actually a rare giant breed – which has grown to an incredible nine stone.
The creature was bought fourteen years ago by a couple from Liverpool, who were told that it was an ordinary tortoise.
But the new owners were unaware that they had bought a special sulcata tortoise – which is the third largest species in the world – and has kept growing and growing.
The animal, which currently weighs nine stone is still getting bigger and could end up weighing 200 pounds (14 stone).
The tortoise which has been nicknamed Victor Meldrew – after the curmudgeonly TV character from BBC show ‘One Foot in the Grave’ – became too large for the family home and they could no longer cope.
The frantic couple were then forced to ring around zoos and rescue centres to try and find a suitable home for the giant reptile.
He collected the tortoise for free from the family in Liverpool and added it to his collection of unusual pets – which includes 400 other reptiles.
Andy runs Swindon Reptile Rescue, an animal rescue centre which he set up in 2001, but he also works a 17-hour day on his farm.
Andy, 47, said: ‘They got Victor from a D.I.Y shop when he was a baby and they sold him as a common tortoise so they wouldn’t have known that he would keep growing for as long as he will.
‘They’d tried a lot of zoos and wildlife sanctuaries but nobody would take him in so they were relieved that I could help out.
‘They were pretty distraught to give him away as Victor was a much-loved pet but they’ve been keeping in regular contact since I picked him up around two weeks ago.
‘I’ve never seen one like him before and he’ll need specialist care so I imagine he’ll end up staying with me for the foreseeable future unless the right person comes forward.
‘Victor seems pretty happy bulldozing my garden at the minute and thankfully even though his diet is a bit different to regular tortoises he eats dry grass and hay which I have good access to working on a farm.’
He explained that the Liverpudlian family were ‘absolutely distraught’ to give up their prized pet.
He added: ‘The family that had to give him up are absolutely gutted but it was just one of those things.
‘They had bought it as a wedding anniversary present for themselves and were sold it on the basis it was a normal-sized garden tortoise.
‘They were really, really, distraught because they had had him for almost 15 years.
‘Their garden was quite small and they were really concerned they weren’t going to be able to look after him properly.
‘He measures two foot from head to tail and is about 18 inches side to side. He’s about 18 inches tall too. He’s only going to get bigger.’
Andy said that Victor spends most of his time under a heating lamp in a specially built shed in his garden and had a ‘personality of his own’.
‘He will answer to his name and comes to see you if you call him,’ he said.
‘He has a personality of his own, and will bulldoze everything in his way, including you if you’re there.’
Victor, a sulcata tortoise, is expected to live until he is 150 is and likely to continue to grow for another 35 years.
Andy has over 35 years of experience rescuing exotic creatures. He looks after tortoises, snakes and lizards at his farm and rescues around 10 reptiles a week.
He looks after 407 reptiles at his house in Wiltshire and has around 20 volunteers who help him out.
In his spare time, the farmer works with reptile charities, zoos and specialist shops to take care of all his residents and also visits schools with some of them and runs demonstrations.
He said: ‘I really fell into doing this but I have such a passion for it. On average, I rescue about 10 reptiles a week and unfortunately only about two of those get rehomed.
‘That’s because of a lack of people coming forward and also because I have a harsh vetting process as I don’t want to rehome them and end up taking them back in a few months down the line.’
Andy runs a nationwide free pick-up service and said the furthest he has ever gone to collect a reptile is Wick, in Scotland.’That was a 15 hour drive there and a 15 hour drive back but I’d rather do that than see them left with owners who can’t look after them,’ he said.
‘I end up paying around £700 just in taking care of them each month, which is a financial stretch but I love doing this.’
If you’d like to give Victor or any other of Andy’s reptiles a new home, please visit: swindonreptilerescue.com.