Double tortoise breakout in West Hampstead

Harvey Wallbanger and Otis Redding both found safe

Thursday, 13th July 2017 — By Tom Foot


Turbo tortoise Harvey Wallbanger hides in a sandal  

WEST Hampstead was rocked by a “tortoise breakout” after two of the reptiles escaped their owners in one weekend.

Missing tortoise signs went up on lampposts on Saturday after “Harvey Wallbanger” broke through a brick wall at the back of his owner’s home in Canfield Gardens. Later the same day, another tortoise, a pet known as “Otis Redding”, after the soul singer, was found in nearby Belsize Road.

Experts say that hot weather can embolden the famously slow shell-backed creatures with a sense of adventure, which may see them behave erratically and become willing to stop at nothing in search of fresh vegetation.

Harvey’s owner – who asked not to be named – said: “We had a massive search party and people kept coming up to us and saying one had been found in Belsize Road – but it wasn’t Harvey. It appeared that, as well as looking for the tortoise, we had found that someone else was looking for a tortoise. It was a mass tortoise breakout.”

He added: “Ours was found, in the end, in one of the next-door houses. Tortoises tend to go undercover, they don’t like to be out. they hide under bushes. They burrow under the soil. They can be quite hard to find. He was under some shrubbery. When they are warm, they are more active. They heat up and move around.”

Harvey had pushed himself through the wood and the bricks, according to his owner, who added: “He’d got through the crack in the back wall. It was so full of tree roots and earth and stuff, I thought Harvey can’t possibly escape through there. So now we’ve renamed him Harvey Wallbanger.”

Linda Denton helped reunite Otis Redding with his owner

Meanwhile, in Belsize Road, Linda Denton helped rescue Otis Redding, the second tortoise on the run, when her husband came back with him in his shopping bag. “He said he’d seen it literally running across the road – he’d never seen a tortoise move so quick,” said Ms Denton. “I had him for a day and night – I couldn’t sleep. I blew up a rubber paddling pool, put newspaper down and loads of salad. But talk about escaping? He escaped so many times. We have a lovely garden, but he kept climbing over the bricks. Worse than a two-year-old, I tell you.”

Otis Redding’s owner – who lives in Belsize Road – reclaimed his pet after Ms Denton posted “Tortoise found” signs in the neighbourhood.

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