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Tortoise is the last surviving animal from Tyrwhitt Drake's Maidstone Zoo

By Alan Smith

Meet Tortie - the last surviving animal from Maidstone Zoo.

The wild Greek Tortoise was purchased from the zoo's pet corner in 1938 by 11-year-old Pamela Hodges who bought him for 1s 6d (about 8p) with her birthday present money.

She had been taken there from the family home on Cornwallis Road as a birthday treat by her father, Ernest Hodges.

Tortie the last surviving creature from Maidstone Zoo
Tortie the last surviving creature from Maidstone Zoo

Pamela chose Tortie over the other tortoises on offer, because he had a cracked shell and she felt sorry for him.

Under Pamela's loving care, Tortie's shell healed, leaving just a slightly visible scar.

The tortoise's exact age if unknown, but they take around 15 years to mature and he was already an adult when Pamela bought him, meaning that he is at least 96 years old.

He has outlived his first owner, Pamela died in 2011.

He is now looked after by Pamela's daughter, Janet Swanborough, who said: "He's very elderly and is on medication. He does take a lot of looking after, but I still think he's going to outlive us all."

Janet Swanborough and Tortie the Tortoise. Picture: Chris Davey
Janet Swanborough and Tortie the Tortoise. Picture: Chris Davey

Mrs Swanborough, 64, has already made provision in her own will for Tortie to be cared for.

Maidstone Zoo, which was owned by the the 12-times Mayor of Maidstone, Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake, operated at Cobtree Park in Sandling from March 29, 1934, until October 4, 1959.

Sir Garrard had crate-loads of tortoises shipped in from Greece for sale to the zoo visitors.

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