Submit your email address below to receive email updates from Cumbria24.
A baby leopard tortoise is receiving lots of tender loving care at Lakes Aquarium and, having arrived like a bolt from the blue, been quickly christened Usain. The baby tortoise only measures around 1.5 inches (4cm) and has been separated from the two female and one male leopard tortoises already living at the Lake District-based Aquarium, so as to give it special attention during its early days.
‘Usain’, named in honour of the Olympic sprinter and putting a twist on the notorious lack of speed of a tortoise, is living in a small enclosure with a heat lamp. The smaller size of its enclosure helps it to find its food and water very easily and Usain is already munching on chopped up pak choi, packed with nutrients.
The baby’s new home is a very warm 30 degrees, but also contains a cave for shelter, a mossy floor and a cooler area. Usain enjoys warm baths every day in the new ‘mini spa’ and has a very shallow water bowl into which to walk with ease.
Although too small to be on show just yet, Lakes Aquarium, based at Lakeside near Newby Bridge, is already planning a bit of razzmatazz for when Usain can live with the older leopard tortoises, to bring the baby out of his shell as soon as possible!
Lakes Aquarium’s talks team leader, Dave Conway, says: “Usain is extremely cute, but needs to grow a little before visitors can get to know him. He has some way to go before he reaches the size of mum and dad, as the leopard tortoise is the fourth largest species of this creature in the world, with adults reaching 18 inches in length and weighing around 40 pounds (18 kilograms)!”
While Usain is enjoying his own special time in the lap of warmth and comfort, visitors can see his parents in the ground level enclosure at the attraction. The tortoise group is extremely popular with children, who always seem mesmerised by the movement and mannerisms of these intriguing creatures.
Usain will grow up to have distinct markings on his shell – one thing that sets a leopard tortoise apart. Some have blotches, some black spots and some even dashes and stripes on their shell. What else will distinguish him is yet to be determined.
Dave Conway says: ”Although tortoises are known for being ponderous, they can actually move quite fast, as their rear legs are shaped like trunks and their front legs like paddles – a combination that assists speed. Who knows .. maybe our Usain will be a sprinter compared to his peers”.
Leopard tortoises originate from central and southern Africa and the Aquarium’s tortoises live in the Africa zone of the global-themed attraction. Usain should have a long life ahead of him, as the lifespan of these creatures is typically 80-100 years.
Visits to Lakes Aquarium are currently excellent value, with an online family ticket for two adults and two children costing just £18.95 up to August 31. Child admission is also just £3.95 up to this date when bought at www.lakesaquarium.co.uk