The RSPCA is appealing for information after two injured Hermann tortoises were abandoned by their owner outside the doors of Marwell Zoo in Winchester.

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Marwell Zoo reported the incident to the RSPCA on Thursday 2 July after finding the two tortoises dumped in a container outside the entrance to the attraction. Both reptiles were found to have a cracked and bleeding shell and the pair were rushed to a vet in Fair Oak for treatment before being taken to a rescue centre.

The two tortoises are now recovering in the care of the RSPCA’s Stubbington Ark branch near Fareham.

Two women, one older with blonde hair and the other a young female, were seen carrying a purple container towards the entrance of the zoo at around 9:10pm at night on 1 July. The trug was covered with a plastic sheet that looked like pond liner and was left weighed down by what looked like a plastic dog bowl. Inside the tortoises lay injured on blood-soaked newspaper and the animals were actively bleeding from their wounds.

The owner  left an anonymous letter with the pair explaining why they had chosen to abandon them. It stated that financial hardship meant that they could no longer continue to care for the animals and explained how their injuries had been caused by the owner’s pet dog who had bitten them whilst playing with them, many weeks before they were abandoned outside the zoo.

RSPCA inspector Jan Edwards said: “I understand that people sometimes experience difficulty and hardship when owning pets and I do believe that the owners of this pair were desperate. In this case the owners were clearly sorry, and were fond of the animals.

“They clearly thought that they were doing the right thing but the reality is that these animals were left overnight with pretty nasty injuries and it is unacceptable to allow them to suffer in this way.

“The fact that these injuries were also caused some weeks ago by their pet dog also means that the tortoises would have been in significant pain for a long period of time. It is every pet owner’s duty to ensure that their animals are kept safe from harm and also to ensure that, in unfortunate circumstances like this, people seek the appropriate help to safeguard the wellbeing of their pets.

“We would urge anyone who may know more about what happened here or who may have any more information about the owners to please contact me, in confidence, as soon as possible on 0300 123 8018.”

Inspector Edwards added: “Taking on a tortoise as a pet requires a lot of time, research and dedication as they can be challenging and expensive to care for. They also have a long lifespan and can live for more than 80 years. Some tortoises can also grow extremely large depending on the species.

A tortoise has the same needs in captivity as in the wild. They need to be fed the correct diet as well as be provided the with an appropriate environment in which to live and these needs must be met at all times by law under the Animal Welfare Act.”

For more information about owning and caring for a pet tortoise please visit: http://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/other