Oldest Tortoise Dies After Rat Bite

Britain’s oldest tortoise died at age 103 following an attack by a rat. Thomas the tortoise developed an infection from the bite and had to be euthanized.

Thomas was wandering around in the garden, which was one of his favorite activities, when he was confronted by a feral rat. The rat bit Thomas on his leg.

As reported by Express News, the wound eventually became infected. June Le Gallez, Thomas’ caretaker, treated the tortoise with antibiotics and fed him through a tube for five days. Unfortunately, his condition continued to decline.

La Gallez made the decision to have Britain’s oldest tortoise euthanized, as the wound continued to swell and he refused to eat. She discusses the heartbreaking decision:

“We are very upset, ­distraught actually … Thomas was like a member of the family … the wound became so inflamed that it started pushing into his shell … a week later, as a family, we made the decision to put him to sleep.”

Thomas the tortoise was actually a female, but this was not discovered until he/she was over 100 years old. When asked if she ever considered changing the name to reflect his sex, La Gallez points out that it would have been “cruel” after so many years.

Thomas’ recorded history begins at the London Zoo.

Grace Hilditch received Thomas as a gift from the zoo in 1922. When Grace’s family home was bombed in 1945, an air raid official rescued Thomas from the debris.

Grace’s cousin, June Le Gallez, inherited the tortoise in 1978. She was his caretaker for 35 years. Thomas shared the Le Gallez home with two other tortoises, Gorky and Carstaias.

As reported by the Guernsey Press, Gorky and Carstaias recently woke from hibernation and appear to be looking for their friend. Le Gallez states that the entire family is mourning the loss of Thomas.

The oldest tortoise has died, but he lived a long and fulfilling life.

[Image via Wikimedia]