Wadham College has announced its acquisition of two tortoises in preparation for the 2013 Corpus Tortoise Race.
The two Hermann’s tortoises, called Archibald and Theodore Manshell, have been donated to the college by Connie Bloomfield, a second year classicist at Wadham.
Bloomfield told Cherwell, “For me the tortoises are really special. I was given them as a present from my family for my seventh birthday. I thought it would be something really nice I could give back to college. Plus I’m not at home very much, so I’ll be able to see them more at Wadham. And perhaps I’ll even see them when I come back to visit Wadham, when I’m ancient and they’re ancient.”
Although the tortoises will not arrive at Wadham until the start of Trinity Term, the college has not hesitated in preparing for Archibald and Theodore’s arrival.
In a recent motion Wadham College JCR elected Joe Williamson, a second-year biologist, as Tortoise Officer, whose duties are to include seeing that the tortoises are fed and looked after, setting up enclosures, and escorting the tortoises to a JCR meeting to vote on motions.
Williamson added, “They will be dressed up in fancy dress for SU meetings and we will endeavour to have weekly socialising sessions with the tortoises for people who do not like the welfare officers and need a reptile friend.”
Yet the primary role of the Tortoise Office will entail getting Theodore and Archibald in shape for the Corpus Tortoise Race in the spring.
Williamson outlined his expectations of Archibald and Theodore in the upcoming challenge. He stated, “The goal for the races is to win. We will accept nothing but victory. If we can only enter one tortoise, the less athletic individual will be a cheerleader on the day.”
Last year, Worcester’s tortoise, Zoom, claimed the victory title in the Corpus Tortoise Race, leaving slower participants from Brasenose, Corpus and Jesus in its wake.
Wadham JCR President Jahnavi Emmanuel commented, “Wadham has been very positive about the tortoises in general, and everyone is very excited to meet them – our newly elected Tortoise Officer has already received several queries from interested Wadhamites!”
It has been alleged that the Wadham tortoises that competed in prior races at Corpus have since gone missing, been stolen, or gained entry to a better and unearthly place, which has complicated Wadham’s ability to participate in recent races.
“We hope that in the summer months, they’ll live in an appropriate cage in the gardens. During winter, they’ll have to live inside – we’re in the process of working out exactly where,” Emmanuel added. Theodore and Archibald lived mostly outdoors at Bloomfield’s family home just north of Brighton.
Each year the Tortoise Race is held at Corpus Christi College midway through Trinity Term. This tradition seems to have begun in the 1960s, though the first accounts of college tortoises at Oxford date back to the end of the nineteenth century.
In recent years the race has raised money for a number of charity organisations, including Maria Veliko’s Bulgarian Orphanage and Oxford Aid to the Balkans. The 2011 event raised £2000 for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.