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New College tortoise, ‘Tessa’, actually male

Eva Bailey reports on the discovery which has shocked New College’s tortoise fans.

After an eventful trip to the vet, it was discovered by New College students that Tessa the tortoise is in fact male. 

Not only that, but he is anywhere up to 40 years older than the students initially thought. 

Tessa the tortoise was gifted to New College in 2013, at which point it was assumed that the tortoise was an 18 month old female. 

Tortoises are a common pet for Oxford Colleges, with Corpus Christi holding an annual Tortoise Race in Trinity Term. 

It is notoriously difficult to tell the difference between male and female tortoises until they are mature. Even then, the characteristics of each sex can be difficult to distinguish. 

However, students at the college have been left wondering how Tessa’s age and sex were both wrongly determined. 

As a result of this revelation, Tessa will experience change to his care, which is administered by students on a rota basis.  

This includes no longer adding Calci-Dust to the tortoise’s food, as he is a mature tortoise who is unlikely to grow anymore. 

Tessa will also now have wildflowers and weeds integrated into his diet.

After discussions with Tessa’s original owner, it was decided that Tessa should retain his given name. 

The vet’s trip that caused this revelation also revealed, thankfully, that Tessa is fit and healthy. Perhaps we will even see him competing in the Tortoise Race next year!

Image: @newcollegetortoise via Instagram. Used with the permission of the page’s owner.

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