Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Club for tortoise keepers

A TEENAGER has started a club dedicated to tortoises.

A TEENAGER has started a club dedicated to tortoises.

Olly Staines, 14, of Kidmore End Road, Emmer Green, founded the Berkshire Tortoise Club two years after getting his first tortoise, a Horsfield’s called Flo. He now has two more, two-year-old spur-thighed tortoises Frankie and Angus.

The club held an open day at St Barnabas’ Church hall in Grove Road and more than 40 people attended.

Frankie and Angus were on display as well as a 20-year-old spur-thighed tortoise called Merlin, who is owned by club secretary Barbara Lee, from Reading.

Olly, who lives with parents Rachael and Mark and siblings Ben, 16, and Millie, 11, said: “It was my New Year’s resolution to get something going in Emmer Green so I started by looking for people who own tortoises in my area.

“I was inspired by the Norfolk Tortoise Club, which is so popular and I wanted to offer something similar for tortoise owners in Berkshire.

“It has been growing as a passion of mine since I got my first tortoise in 2013. They aren’t normal pets to have â?? there’s something quite exotic and fascinating about them.”

In November, Olly was taken to the Cotswold Wildlife Park in Burford to see its giant Aldabra tortoises as a birthday present from his parents. He was allowed into the enclosure and even fed the animals.

Olly, who goes to St Joseph’s College in Reading, said: “The Aldabras are the big ones that you get in the Galapagos Islands. Going to see them was a great experience and inspired me further.”

The open day had displays about owning a tortoise as well as games, a raffle and a bouncy castle for children.

There were talks from Steve Morton, of Herbiseed in Twyford, on tortoise-friendly gardening, Dr Bruce Maclean on tortoise health and Eleanore Tirtasana, of Norfolk Tortoise Club.

Ms Tirtasana said: “It’s nice to see someone so young set up a group to help improve the lives of wildlife in captivity.”

The club plans to hold meetings at the church hall on the first Tuesday of each month and hopes to attract regular speakers. Olly said: “They will be a way to bring new and experienced tortoise owners together.”

For more information, email the club at berkshiretortoiseclub@hotmail.com

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