‘Sex-starved’ giant tortoise that sparked train chaos ran away ‘looking for love’

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The African spurred tortoise is lucky to be alive after being hit by a 90mph train on Monday morning. The giant tortoise walked away with a “superficial” injury to the top of his shell after the train sped over the top of him as he walked down the tracks. It happened after the tortoise, named Clyde, broke out of his enclosure by knocking down a concrete block wall of his pen as he appeared to desperately search for female company. Clyde managed to crawl through a meadow and slip through a fence beside the railway line that runs next to his home at the Swallow Aquatics wildlife centre in East Harling, Norfolk.

Dillon Prest, manager of Swallow Aquatics, said: “I think he smashed his way out to freedom because he wanted to find a girl tortoise. I guess he just wanted some female company, and he thought that Norwich was the right place to find some.”

The 140lb creature is lucky to be alive after being missing for more than 24 hours.

After being hit, another train driver spotted the 2ft 6in long tortoise and alerted Network Rail bosses.

Three trains were held up for around 50 minutes as a result of Clyde’s failed adventures.

Staff at the Swallow Aquatics centre were alerted and he was swiftly carried back to his home.

Clyde, who is believed to be in his twenties, is being treated by specialist vets for his “superficial” injury to his shell but is expected to make a full recovery.

Dillon added: “He is an incredibly tough creature and he seemed remarkably unfazed after being hit by a train. Giant tortoises can move quite quickly and he landed up about half a mile from home.

“He was still walking along the track when we found him, despite being hit by the train. Luckily he is not too badly hurt. He is being given antibiotics and is resting at the vets, and we hope to see him again soon.

“He has a four or five inch wide area skimmed off the top of his shell, but there is no damage to his organs. It is superficial damage and his three quarter inch thick shell should grow back in time.

“I don’t know if this experience is going to be enough to dampen his ardour. He only wants to do what comes naturally, even though he has probably never met a female tortoise.”

Clyde had been taken in as a rescue pet from a Norfolk family who could no longer look after him.

Four weeks ago he was moved to a temporary pen, made from concrete blocks, to allow renovation work on his enclosure.

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Dillon added: “He got out by knocking down the blocks some time between 5.30pm on Saturday and 10am on Sunday.

“We think he went into a meadow habitat with long grass which we have got at the back of the centre. I spent a couple of hours looking for him on the Sunday, but I couldn’t find him anywhere. I expected to find him sunbathing in the meadow on Monday.

“He must have been attracted to the railway track as it is a nice open area to sunbathe – but he obviously didn’t realise that a hulking train would come along. We got a call from Network Rail on Monday morning asking if we had lost a tortoise after he was seen on the track.

“There was a local member of staff who knew we kept tortoises, so that’s why they called us. I went down to meet him beside the track and I saw him walking along the line about 100 yards away. I was expecting him to be smashed to pieces when I heard a train had gone over him – but there is only a little bit of damage to his shell.”

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