Bella the giant tortoise is settling in to his new home in West Lothian

An endangered giant tortoise which was given up as a pet by its owners after it grew too big has arrived at a wildlife centre from Finland - weighing a whopping 65kg.

Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 4:45 pm

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Staff at Almond Valley Heritage Centre, in West Lothian, are celebrating after welcoming Bella the African spurred tortoise from Helsinki Zoo.

The 25-year-old was bought as a pet in France but was given up when he got too big.

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Bella enjoys having his neck tickled.

Bella, who was named before his original owners knew his sex, was then sold to a pet shop in Finland and was later donated to Helsinki Zoo.

He was flown into the UK last month and has been a hit with visitors since arriving at the wildlife centre where he eats 5kg of food a day.

African spurred tortoises are the third largest species in the world, and it is hoped Bella will live until he's 80.

Farm manager, Craig Holmes, 33, said: "While he was at Helsinki, he was living off display to the public and was kind of living behind the scenes.

Bella quickly settled down in his new home.

"He was placed on the zoo's surplus list and had been on it for a couple of years.

"I worked with zoos for many years and made many contacts, so Bella was brought to my attention.

"We wanted to bring in Bella to educate people on the heritage of these animals.

"These tortoises used to get imported to the UK in high numbers, and there are so few left as people did not know how to look after them properly.

Crowd-pleaser: Bella quickly earned a faithful following.

"They were classed as vulnerable, until recently when they got classed as endangered.

"We flew him from Finland to Heathrow airport, where he then got delivered to us through an animal courier.

"He's become a huge hit and a fan favourite.

"He's something a bit different, we've never had a tortoise.

Salad for lunch anyone?

"Bella keeps himself to himself, although the weather has been relatively good this summer, so he's spent a lot of time outside for the visitors to see him.

"We wanted a fully grown adult to come in for an instant impact, as they are so big.

"He lives on his own, and we have no plans to bring him in a friend as they are solitary animals."

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