AT THIS time of year most tortoises are slowing down and preparing to hibernate.
Luckily for them, one woman shows no signs of slowing down.
Julie Hinks is gearing up to receive an award for her ongoing work with unwanted and sick tortoises.
Mrs Hinks, from Fareham, has spent the last 15 years rescuing hundreds of tortoises.
And she is about to receive an award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare to honour her ongoing dedication to the cold blooded reptiles.
‘Tortoises are definitely not slow and they are definitely not boring,’ said Mrs Hinks.
Mrs Hinks, 46, runs TortArk, a non-profit organisation in Funtley Road, Titchfield that re-homes tortoises and provides a sanctuary for others.
Tortoises can live for up to 120 years, so getting a tortoise as a pet can mean a big family commitment. The oldest tortoise in the sanctuary, Phoebe, is 106 years old.
Mrs Hinks’ passion developed when she was given a tortoise by a friend who could no longer care for it in 1984.
As she had a tortoise as a family pet when she was a child, she thought she knew how to care for it, but she soon realised that the way we use to care for them was not the correct and fair way.
She said: ‘They were common pets – before the change in licence law you could pick them up in any pet store.
‘We didn’t know how to look after them and a lot of them died. Thank goodness things have changed.’
As her tortoise passion spiralled, so did the number of tortoises at TortArk.
To date she has rehomed over 300 tortoises and has 30 that live with her all year round due to health issues.
As well as her re-homing service and sanctuary, she set up the Hampshire Tortoise Society which provides a space where people can share their love of tortoises.
She also operates a help line and walk-in tortoise surgeries.
Robbie Marsland. UK director of IFAW, said: ‘Julie goes to great efforts to improve the welfare of tortoises by finding much needed homes for them and by educating the public to prevent irresponsible purchasing of them as pets.’
She will be presented with her award at the Houses of Lords by Queen legend and active animal rights campaigner Brian May at the Animal Action Awards event tomorrow.
She said: ‘I am very honoured but I see this award as an award for the whole team. I couldn’t do it without them.’
For more information on TortArk or Hampshire Tortoise Society call 0845 473 8258.