One thing I’d change about Oxford: free the tortoises

Ben Evans imagines an Oxford where the noble college tortoise roams wild and free

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For too long Oxford has kept hidden its greatest treasures. I am not talking about its endowments, the manuscripts of the Bodleian or its educational techniques. Rather I speak of something far more precious than any of these: its college tortoises.

These tortoises are the heart and soul of their colleges. Their age and quiet dignity mirrors their storied surroundings, whilst their slow and purposeful movements create an oasis of calm amidst the hubbub of ordinary Oxford life. They are also extremely cute.

Yet where are these tortoises to be found? Caged and hidden away in porters’ lodges; a measure which is both cruel to the animal and to we students who fail to benefit from, or even realise, the presence of these charming creatures in our midst. Thus, if I could change one thing about Oxford, it would be to liberate its college tortoises, so that they might roam free in the central quad of every college.

The benefits of such a move have already been elucidated, but there is one potential danger, namely that the tortoise might be stepped on. There are, however, simple solutions to such a problem, for instance colleges might redirect some of their money to full time “masters of the tortoise” to act as custodians, or tie balloons around them as an obvious indicator of their presence.

Oxford can be a stressful and hectic experience, so I ask you this: what could be better for us all than to see living reminders that slow and steady wins the race?

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