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Tortoise, 98, Witnessed Gallipoli and Outlived Owner

Tortoise, 98, Witnessed Gallipoli and Outlived Owner

A retired tortoise breeder is seeking to return a 98-year-old tortoise, Blake, to his native home, the beaches of Gallipoli in Turkey.

According to the Telegraph, back in 1916, a British serviceman now only remembered as Mr. Marris took the tortoise from the beach in Turkey “as shells rained overhead” in the Gallipoli Campaign, which is regarded as one of the greatest disasters for the Allies in World War I.

Gallipoli is located near the Dardanelles, a narrow strait in northern Turkey. The British and French, with volunteer soldiers from Australia and New Zealand as well as British India, undertook the campaign to secure a sea route to Russia (because Germany and Austria-Hungary controlled access to land routes at that time) and also to capture Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire. The Allies lost in what was regarded as a major victory for Turkey (whose troops were fewer in number), with both sides suffering heavy casualties of at least half a million.

Marris carried the tortoise in his backpack on 2,000 mile journey back to his home in Blakeney, Norfolk. The tortoise outlived Marris and, in 1983, was given to a woman named Marion Skinner, for breeding. But Skinner, now 67 years old, is struggling to care for Blake and is hoping that he could be returned to the beaches where he began his life, as she says in the Telegraph:

“He always loved the sunshine and the warmth of the green house so I am certain he would enjoy being back in his natural environment.

“It would be an incredible ending to his incredible story.

“There are complications. Tortoises can’t really travel internationally because they can carry pathogens and other conditions that can be passed on to natives.

“If someone was going to take him they would have to be prepared to have him screened.

“But Blake would love the temperature and the climate.

“I don’t know how feasible it would be releasing him into the wild, but tortoises cannot be caught anymore, so he wouldn’t be in much danger.

“If there’s anyway Blake could go back to Turkey that would be fantastic.”

Whether or not Blake, described as now “geriatric,” would survive such a journey or be able to live again in the wild after a century in England, is uncertain.

An ideal home for Blake, says Skinner, would be a “secure sunny garden, with a healthy diet of weeds and wildflowers dusted with calcium,” with “warm dry shelter” in cooler weather. Eleanor Tirtasana, rehoming officer at the Tortoise Club, notes that Blake, like many tortoises, could live into his hundreds.

Finding a good home for the elderly tortoise, whose history is certainly more than interesting, is the chief concern. The Telegraph says that Blake was “rescued” from Gallipoli and more details about the circumstances under which he was taken from the beach so long ago are not provided. Perhaps he was not in danger? Might Marris have taken the tortoise as a memento of the campaign, which is remembered as a military failure that led to political fallout in Britain?

(Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, was forced to end his single-party Liberal government and form a coalition government with the Conservative Party while Winston Churchill who had, in his position as First Lord of the Admiralty, first put forward plans to attack the Dardanelles, was demoted.)

Where is the best place for a tortoise who has indeed lived a remarkable life — what would he tell us about Gallipoli and much more if her could — to live out the rest of his days?

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104 comments

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7:50AM PDT on Sep 24, 2014

Seems like the old turtle needs to be in a sanctuary of some sort with other turtles and not put back in the wild. So many years of being taken care of, and then having to now learn to fend for itself does not seems fair.

5:03AM PDT on Sep 24, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

4:13AM PDT on Sep 24, 2014

We don't know how old Blake is because we don't know how old he was when he was taken from the beach 98 years ago. I would think that after 98 years of captivity he is now a senior tortoise who has lost a lot of his instinctive behaviors. It doesn't sound fair to stick an old geezer on a beach and make him scrounge and compete for dinner.

11:15AM PST on Nov 26, 2013

Wouldn't this be a wonderful challenge and story for the anniversary of the Landing of Gallipoli next year.

My great uncle Private F. E. WIlson No 1126 was fatally wounded at the landing in the Dardanelles, and died days later in Alexandria Hospital . I would love to see rescued wildlife returned.

9:50AM PST on Nov 26, 2013

I hope Blake can go back to his original home.

1:33PM PST on Feb 3, 2013

Thanks for sharing!

6:49AM PST on Feb 2, 2013

Long Live Blake! I hope they find him a happy place for however long he has.

7:28AM PST on Feb 1, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

4:12PM PST on Nov 24, 2012

i very much like Hartson's comment. very sweet.

4:05PM PST on Nov 24, 2012

I guess turtles should just be free and in their home land, humans don't need them as pets! Thanks for article, hope this one can get home and if he does sure hope he can survive!

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