Zoo tortoises' speed lessons

An extension area to the giant tortoise exhibit at Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire has prompted keepers to develop a new training programme to help bring these slow moving creatures indoors.

Zoo Keeper Ryan Berry: 'It has been a very slow process'

The new extension area is a great addition to the giant tortoise exhibit. They have much more room to roam outdoors, and the various substrates give our trio of Aldabra tortoises an enriched environment designed to stimulate them day today.

We knew the outdoor extension would prove more challenging for us to bring the tortoises indoors for the evening. They are very slow moving animals, plodding along at less than one mile per hour.

– Zoo Keeper Ryan Berry

It has been a very slow process. We anticipate the training will carry on throughout the summer until our tortoises really get the hang of it but the patience of the team has really paid off so far.

Despite his name, Speedy is always the last one in at the end of the day. We expect this is down to being older and wiser!

– Zoo Keeper Ryan Berry

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Twycross Zoo explains tortoise training regime

We began the training roughly six months ahead of the extension area being completed, using a target and the tortoises’ favourite foods. We held the target a few centimetres in front of them and when they touched it with their nose we gave a verbal bridge ‘good’ and fed them a piece of food; we then moved the target further away and repeated the process which encouraged them to move along at a steady pace. As the behaviour got stronger we gradually increased the distance between them and the target.

– Kris Hern, Twycross Zoo animal training manager

Twycross Zoo's new training regime for tortoises

Twycross Zoo cares for three Aldabra tortoises
Twycross Zoo cares for three Aldabra tortoises Credit: Twycross Zoo

An extension area to the giant tortoise exhibit at Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire has prompted keepers to develop a new training programme to help bring these slow moving creatures indoors quicker while they renovate.

The training has also proved beneficial for health checks
The training has also proved beneficial for health checks Credit: Twycross Zoo

In an attempt to ensure it is not just the hare the tortoise can defeat, zookeepers have given them a training programme to make sure they move back in quicker.

It follows a planned extension of the animal's indoor and outdoor facilities.

Twycross Zoo’s new outdoor tortoise exhibit is now open
Twycross Zoo’s new outdoor tortoise exhibit is now open Credit: Twycross Zoo

Zookeepers also say the regime has proved beneficial for health checks.

Twycross Zoo cares for three Aldabra tortoises: Tim aged 40, Shelly 30 and Speedy aged 70.