Bertie: the world's fastest tortoise (we think so, anyway)

The Northern Echo: SPPEDY TORTOISE: Bertie the Tortoise attempts to break the Guinness Book of Records world land speed record for a tortoise at Adventure Valley, Durham. Picture: TOM BANKS (8021721) SPPEDY TORTOISE: Bertie the Tortoise attempts to break the Guinness Book of Records world land speed record for a tortoise at Adventure Valley, Durham. Picture: TOM BANKS (8021721)

“SLOW and steady wins the race.”

So said the dogged Tortoise as he embarrassed the arrogant hare in Aesop’s fable.

Well, it seems no-one told Bertie.

The young Leopard “turbo” tortoise is believed to have set a new world record today (Wednesday, July 9); covering the 18ft-long uphill track at Adventure Valley theme park, near Durham City, first in 21.47 seconds – around half the previous best – and then smashing his own time, clocking in at 19.59 seconds.

The record attempt was painstakingly monitored, with three vets, a course architect and two timekeepers from Sunderland AFC’s Foundation of Light on hand to ensure everything was done by the book.

Their paperwork and videos will now be sent to Guinness World Records, in the hope of official confirmation that Bertie has entered the record books.

Owner Marco Calzini said: “Not only has he smashed the world record, he’s obliterated it completely.

“I think it will stand for a long time now, without a shadow of a doubt.”

Reporters and cameramen jostled with officials for the best view as the assembled crowd awaited Bertie’s arrival into the race arena.

“What if he goes into his shell?” one worried timekeeper asked. No such worries.

As Marco carried him in, Bertie’s little legs were already spinning like clock hands, ready to hit the ground running.

This was his moment – he wasn’t going to miss out.

He broke the previous world record of 43.7 seconds, set by a tortoise named Charlie at the National Tortoise Championships at Tickhill, South Yorkshire, in 1977, on his first attempt, to huge cheers and fist punching from Marco and colleagues.

Second time out, he slashed another two seconds off his personal best, before being retired to his hutch for a well-earned rest.

Bertie’s speed was spotted shortly after he arrived at Adventure Valley, donated by a family who were emigrating, three-and-a-half years ago.

“Every day we do activities with the animals and everybody comments on how quick he walks,” Marco said.

“It’s a massive weight off my shoulders. I’m so proud of him, so pleased.

“Now hopefully we’ll get that official recognition.”

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