War veteran tortoise Churchill turns 100
By Hsin-Yi Lo
A RESCUE centre is celebrating the 100th birthday of one of its residents – and remembering the extraordinary life she has led.
Churchill is one of 20 resident tortoises at Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare in The Broyle, Ringmer.
The Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise is not only a centenarian, but also a war veteran.
The battle scars on Churchill’s shell tell a sad tale. Her first owner took her as a pet in 1937 but unfortunately the house she lived in was destroyed during The Blitz.
Churchill has since been passed down through families and friends and other rescue centres until she ended up at Raystede this year.
Miriam Battye, the supervisor for small animals, said: “We estimate Churchill is 100 years old. Spur-thighs can live more than 100 years but and longer if they are in captivity. Tortoises have age rings on their shells.
“She is one of the oldest ones in our centre and was passed on to us from another sanctuary.
“We don’t know where Churchill was born but we are certain her first owner took her into their home in 1937.
“Her background is a little foggy because she has had numerous owners and carers so some information about her was lost.
“Although she is an old lady, she can move quite quickly. She’s very energetic and very independent.
“Before coming to Raystede she was used to having a space of her own.
“She is starting to get on well with the other tortoises, she is adapting.”
It is not known how heavy Churchill is, though she is an impressive 30cm wide and 50cm long.
The rescue centre is also not sure who named her Churchill – it is assumed she was mistaken for a male.
Staff praised Churchill for her resilience and will to survive.
Miriam said: “As you would imagine, Churchill is quite the character and she’s an absolute joy to spend time with.
“She’s light on her feet and very inquisitive.
“Yet she survived The Blitz and has outlived many of her peers.
“You can see when looking into her big wise eyes that there really is a depth and a degree of understanding within such an unlikely creature that we humans may never fully grasp.”
Churchill is not looking for a new home – Miriam said she needs to be at Raystede as it can provide for her specialist needs.