Tortie has one shell of a story
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.