High Commission tortoise saved by quick thinking Samson

George the UK High Commission tortoise
George the resident tortoise with his rescuer Samson. Photo: Twitter/HCNicHailey

There was drama at the UK High Commission in Nairobi yesterday as George the resident tortoise got trapped in one of the fences surrounding the compound.

Thankfully, High Commissioner Nic Hailey reported via Twitter that the tortoise was “ably rescued by [his] colleague Samson.”

Among the tortoises found in Kenya is the Leopard tortoise (Geochelone pardalis) which is a large and attractively marked tortoise which has a wide distribution in sub-Saharan Africa.

This chelonian is a large, grazing species of tortoise that favours semi-arid, thorny to grassland habitats. It is, however, also found in some regions featuring a higher level of precipitation, although some leopard tortoises have been found in rainier areas.

In both very hot and very cold weather they may dwell in abandoned fox, jackal, or anteater holes and they do not dig other than to make nests in which to lay eggs.

It grazes extensively upon mixed grasses, but also favours the fruit and pads of the prickly pear cactus, succulents and thistles.

It grows to quite a respectable size, with adults reaching 16 – 18 inches (40 – 50 cm) and 40 pounds (18 Kg). Large examples may be 60 cm (over 2 feet) long and weigh about 80 lbs and they generally have a life span of about 50 years.