A mystery home for tortoises in need

IT is nestled away in a quiet spot near Great Yarmouth’s coastline – a sanctuary for unwanted tortoises to grow old in peace and comfort.

Run by a couple who bought their first reptile for their children, the back garden location of the sanctuary is guarded with utmost secrecy.

The grandparents explained that among the current collection of tortoises, there were a number of rare species, with prices for each fetching hundreds of pounds.

They told the Mercury: “We want to keep their whereabouts secret because of security reasons really.

“And we make sure when it comes to the people we talk to who want us to adopt their tortoises that we go see them rather than them see us.”

It all started when they bought their children a tortoise 40 years ago, little expecting what would follow.

They explained: “Word got around the village we were in at the time, and we then found out there were a few elderly people who had to go into nursing homes and couldn’t look after theirs so we took them on.”

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And so the numbers grew.

Now the couple have five pens in which they keep 11 of the reptiles, which range in age from seven to old age pensioners! One of their longer inhabitants was Fred, who reached the grand old age of 80 before he died.

That said, these tortoises enjoy five-star treatment.

Fed a range of home-grown snacks, ranging from cucumber to cactus, they are able to enjoy their post-hibernation period acclimatising in a greenhouse.

And the sanctuary has plans to expand and, it is hoped, start breeding if possible.

They said: “It takes about 45 minute a day at the moment to look after them, but if we increased the numbers a lot it would be quite challenging.

“Then again, because of their hibernation it’s only for six months of the year.”

The couple revealed: “They’ve all got their own different characters, with some more aggressive than others, and just seeing their faces – well, they’re lovely, and I love them to bits.”

l To contact the sanctuary, call 01493 701380.