Monday 19 February 2018

Zoo staff turn X-ray tables on stamping giant tortoises

Staff using a wooden frame to help X-ray a giant tortoise (Paignton Zoo/PA)
Staff using a wooden frame to help X-ray a giant tortoise (Paignton Zoo/PA)

Staff at a zoo struggling to X-ray some hefty giant tortoises have turned the tables on their patients - quite literally.

The female Aldabra giant tortoises, which weigh the best part of 14 stone (90kg), were damaging the X-ray plates by either stamping on them or by pooing and weeing.

It takes four people to lift the reptiles, so vets and keepers at Paignton Zoo in Devon came up with the idea of a simple wooden frame - like a table without a top.

Vet nurse Celine Campana said: "We went to zoo technician Don Nielsen with a drawing and explained the problems we were having. We were sliding the digital X-ray plates under the tortoises, but they would stamp on them or poo and pee.

"They're worth £900 each and they were getting quite scratched and damaged."

Mr Nielsen devised the sturdy wooden frame, which includes a slot into which the vets can slide the X-ray plate, and the tortoises are lifted on to it.

A member of the vet team then stands above the animal with the zoo's mobile X-ray machine and takes the X-ray from above.

Ms Campana added: "The table means they are lifted off the ground for only a moment or two, they can't wander off as they are unable to reach the ground with their toes.

"The X-ray is taken in a quarter of the time it used to take. It is especially good as previously we had to have another person in the room to restrain the tortoise, and although everyone is wearing lead aprons, it's still a radiation exposure risk."

Press Association

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