Animal rescue: Tortoise (98) smuggled from Gallipoli in First World War outlives owner
A 98-year-old tortoise which was smuggled into Britain from Gallipoli by a soldier during the First World War is seeking a new home.
A retired tortoise breeder has launched a bid to return the pet to the beaches of Gallipoli - where the animal was rescued.
Blake the tortoise, who is approaching his 100th birthday, was plucked from the beaches of the deadly 1916 battle, in Turkey, by a British serviceman as shells rained overhead.
The soldier, who is now only remembered by the name Mr Marris, carried the 2,000 miles to his home in Norfolk, in his backpack, where he lived with the family.
Blake outlived his soldier owner, who lived in Blakeney, Norfolk, by more than 30 years, and was eventually passed on to Marion Skinner in 1983 for breeding the animals.
Now retired officer manager Mrs Skinner, 67, from Neatishead, Norfolk, has put Blake - her last tortoise - up for adoption because she is struggling to care for him.
She revealed her ideal outcome would be to see Blake rehomed in Turkey - and returned back to the beaches where he was scooped to safety 98 years ago.
Mrs Skinner said: "If he could go back to Turkey I am sure he would love it. If there's anybody in Gallipoli who could take him that would be perfect.
"He always loved the sunshine and the warmth of the green house so I am certain he would enjoy being back in his natural environment.
"It would be an incredible ending to his incredible story.
"There are complications. Tortoises can't really travel internationally because they can carry pathogens and other conditions that can be passed on to natives.
"If someone was going to take him they would have to be prepared to have him screened.
"But Blake would love the temperature and the climate.
"I don't know how feasible it would be releasing him into the wild, but tortoises cannot be caught anymore, so he wouldn't be in much danger.
"If there's anyway Blake could go back to Turkey that would be fantastic."
Blake - named after the village of Blakeney - has lived with Mrs Skinner and her now retired commercial refrigeration engineer husband Barrie, 67, since they adopted him from a woman called Mrs Marris in 1983.
Back problems mean Mrs Skinner has gradually given up all of her tortoises over the last few years and now just has to find one last home for spur-thighed tortoise Blake.
He is currently being looked after by foster carer Dillon Prest at his home in South Lopham, Norfolk, while the Norfolk Tortoise Club search for a new home for him.
According to the tortoise experts, the ideal home for Blake would offer access to a secure sunny garden, with a healthy diet of weeds and wildflowers dusted with calcium.
And he would need a warm dry shelter during bad weather, such as a greenhouse or utility area with a UV heat lamp.
But Mrs Skinner, who has kept and bred more than 20 tortoises, still believes returning the Gallipoli veteran to his native beaches would be the best home.
The grandmother-of-one said: "Blake has an incredible story, but they all have incredible stories.
"We knew about the incredible journey he had when we took him in, but we didn't treat him any differently to any of the other tortoises."
She added: "I really want Blake to find a special home because he's so elderly and actually very geriatric. He needs a bit of tender loving care and a quiet life now."
Eleanor Tirtasana, rehoming officer at the Tortoise Club, said: "Many tortoises like Blake can live well in to their hundreds, meaning they often outlive their owners.
"As a club we are able to help tortoises find new homes where they can thrive with continued support, and look for homes where a tortoise can thrive and not just survive."