Injured tortoise gets all-terrain roller board allowing him to go outside in the sun


This is the moment an endangered tortoise gets to test his new all-terrain roller board in the outdoor facilities of the Zoom Erlebniswelt after joint problems left him disabled and unable to walk without assistance.

The male African spurred tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata), named Helmuth, 23, who is a resident at ZOOM Erlebniswelt Gelsenkirchen zoological adventure world in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, has been whizzing around the zoo’s indoor facilities on a roller board.

But the small wheels meant that it was impractical for him to be allowed outside.

He has now however successfully visited the outdoor turtle garden as well with the help of a new roller board which was constructed by master orthopedic technician Ulrich Schade from the city of Bochum, and ZOOM Erlebniswelt senior vet Judith Wabnitz.

The new roller board was especially designed for outdoor usage as opposed to the first one that could only be used on smooth surfaces of the indoor enclosure.

Using a plaster cast orthopedic technician Schade made a custom-fit shell with four wheels made out of special plastic that are strapped under Helmuth’s body.

In addition two strips of Velcro tape attached to the shell ensure that Helmuth remains stable.

Wabnitz said: ‘We are pleased that everything went so well and that Helmuth can eat grass on the meadow again while enjoying the warm temperatures.’

Helmuth, who weighs over 100 kilograms (220 lbs), was diagnosed with shoulder arthritis in January after which he was given a roller board that he used to move around and train his muscles.

Schade said: ‘We had to meet several times for instance to adjust the height and position of the wheels.’

Wabnitz who lured Helmuth in the outdoors with salad and zucchini was amazed at how much he could move and added: ‘He is a real fighter!’

The 23-year-old tortoise’s therapy consists of long training sessions on the roller board once a day. He also receives medicine.

Wabnitz explained that consultations with an animal physiotherapist have also proven to be successful for Helmut’s development and added: ‘She [the physiotherapist] showed the animal keepers special massage techniques and created a training plan for the tortoise.’

The vet hoped she would be able to help Helmuth move freely and overcome the joint problems in the future.