Masters students carry out ground-breaking work with giant tortoise species

November 2020
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(NOTE: This is an archived press release.)

Writtle University College students, Jessica Sebright and Zoe Starling, are celebrating the success of a joint project at Linton Zoo Conservation Park in Cambridgeshire. 

The MSc Animal Science students worked with a range of partners to collect unprecedented detail of tortoise movement, resource use and social interaction tracking each animal for five days at 20cm accuracy. The research follows on from the Tortoise Welfare UK/TSA conference held at Writtle University College in November 2019.

Jessica and Zoe worked closely with Andy Thurman and Sean Irons, from the state-of-the-art geolocation tracking company, Omnisense. Their next generation local positioning, ultrawide band sensors allowed the team to track two giant tortoise species at the zoo. 

Kim Simmons, Zoo Director at Linton Conservation Park and vice-chair of Turtle Survival Alliance Europe, took a key position within the project.  

The project compared two captive species to their wild counterparts. In the wild, Aldabra tortoises from the Seychelles are a sociable species, whilst Sulcata tortoises from the southern Sahara desert are more territorial. Sensors were attached with a welfare-friendly adhesive used in agriculture.

Writtle University College lecturer Dr Jon Amory said: "We would like to thank Linton Zoo Conservation Park, Tortoise Welfare UK, Omnisense and all other contributing partners for this fantastic opportunity. The University College is proud to work closely with many sector-leading institutions to contribute to ground-breaking research and offer our students real-world experience, that will be of use to them in the workplace."

"We are delighted to have been able to contribute to the advancement of knowledge of these two amazing species of tortoise. At Linton we have been enormously successful with the management and breeding of a number of tortoise species since we started here in 1972. We're always pleased to be involved in projects that support local schools and colleges, especially when it encourages others to take an interest in improving the understanding of the needs of tortoises in captivity and the conservation of species in the wild."

For more information on Writtle University College's animal-related courses, visit writtle.ac.uk/animal