Tor­tie has one shell of a story

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page - REXINE HAWES

While most peo­ple may have a paint­ing or jew­ellery passed down through the gen­er­a­tions, the Lit­tle fam­ily has a liv­ing breath­ing heir­loom.

Tor­tie the tor­toise is on her third gen­er­a­tion of care­givers.

She was res­cued in the Greek city of Salonika by Ste­wart Lit­tle, a Kiwi medic who served in the am­bu­lance corps dur­ing WWI.

The young medic wit­nessed her be­ing run over by a French gun wagon. Upon see­ing she sur­vived, Ste­wart picked Tor­tie up and kept her with him.

Tor­tie sailed to New Zealand with Ste­wart on the S.S. Marama, along with wounded soldiers from the war-torn bat­tle­fields. She was kept hid­den in his kit­bag to avoid quar­an­tine.

The story of Tor­tie is so in­spir­ing that she now has a chil­dren’s book which cel­e­brates her and Ste­wart’s life to­gether, Tor­tie and the Sol­dier.

It was launched by Scholas­tic at Wal­ton School, where fam­ily mem­ber He­len Lit­tle teaches. The launch in­cluded a read­ing by au­thor Jennifer Beck.

There is no way of know­ing just how old Tor­tie is, she could very well be close to 200 years old. Ac­cord­ing to the Gui­ness Book of World Records, the old­est recorded tor­toise lived to 189.

Along with be­ing run over, she was stolen and sold to a cir­cus, sur­vived a fire and also suf­fered de­hy­dra­tion af­ter get­ting lost.

She is cur­rently re­sid­ing with the third gen­er­a­tion of Lit­tles, shar­ing her time be­tween Ste­wart’s grand­sons Stephen and Chris.

The old lady, who loves be­ing in the com­pany of peo­ple and hav­ing her chin tick­led, is trea­sured by the Lit­tle fam­ily.

‘‘Ac­tu­ally it’s hav­ing that con­nec­tion to our grand­fa­ther,’’ said Chris.

‘‘He was a great man whom I looked up to, and to con­tinue look­ing af­ter the tor­toise he loved so much, that just means the world to us.

‘‘It was only as we grew up, that we re­alised how amaz­ing the story was, how one-off her sur­vival was.’’

Scholas­tic Pub­lish­ing Man­ager, Lynette Evans said Tor­tie is an in­trepid lit­tle tor­toise with a very big heart. She is recog­nised as New Zealand’s old­est sur­vivor of WWI.

Tor­tie is liv­ing in Mor­rinsville, and en­joys spend­ing her days eat­ing green leafy veg­eta­bles and fruit - and of course stretch­ing her neck for any op­por­tu­nity of a tickle un­der her chin.


Chris Lit­tle with Tor­tie, the tor­toise, recog­nised as the old­est sur­vivor of WWI.

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