Tortoises are being attacked by hungry rats in the UK. The rats are gnawing at the legs of pet tortoises because they have been deprived of food that would normally have been available as waste outside opened restaurants and cafés. We all know about the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic which has decimated the hospitality businesses and closed city centre office blocks, the employees of which were served by cafés and food outlets.
The International Tortoise Association warned that rats are a problem this year and that owners should make sure that their pet doesn’t become a victim by supervising outdoor jaunts and ensuring that they are in a secure enclosure overnight.
The story of Freda illustrates the problem. Freda is a 70-year-old Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise living I believe in Hampshire. A grand age if I may say so. She was bitten by rats overnight just before lockdown. Julie Hink the founder of the Hampshire Tortoise Society in Fareham said that she was “very, very shell-shocked”. She needed to have her legs bandaged. Painkillers were administered and a skin cream applied. She is recovering in a heated cabin.
Celia Claypole, a volunteer at a sanctuary for tortoises in Sully, Glamorgan has seen 12 cases during the summer which is six times the number that occurred in previous years. She said that the rats are out in force and are attacking tortoises. They keep “chewing and chewing and chewing”, she said.
Rats are very persistent and they have strong incisor teeth. They will eat tortoises alive if given the opportunity and if desperate enough.