The University of Lincoln, UK, has welcomed three new arrivals to its growing family of red-footed tortoises – and would like the public’s help in naming one.

Donated by the tortoise, terrapin and turtle care and conservation charity British Chelonia Group, the tortoises were in need of a happy home after previous owners were unable to look after them.

The University of Lincoln’s Cold-Blooded Cognition research group within the School of Life Sciences has already named two of the new additions, Ulli and Gerard. They decided to ask the public for their input following tortoise Charles Darwin gaining fame by helping TV presenter Chris Packham officially open the University’s new Joseph Banks Laboratories in April 2015.

Charles Darwin, one of 24 red-footed tortoises who call the University of Lincoln home, hit the headlines all over the world after chewing through a ‘ribbon’ of his favourite snack – rocket – to declare the state-of-the-art labs open.
The social media campaign #nameourtortoise starts on Thursday, 18th June and runs until midnight on June 25th 2015. Simply tweet @unilincoln with your name suggestion and the reason for it, to be in with a chance of winning a University of Lincoln goodie bag and hooded top and meeting the tortoises in their home surroundings.

Dr Anna Wilkinson, who leads the Cold-Blooded Cognition research group, said: “We are extremely grateful to the British Chelonia Group for rehoming these tortoises with us. Not only can we provide an appropriate environment for them to live in but they can also help us develop our understanding of the cognitive capabilities of reptiles. We are interested in understanding how they perceive the world, how they learn about their environment and how they use and retain this information. They are extremely intelligent animals and generally work well for treats – their favourite being strawberries!”

Most recently Dr Wilkinson revealed that tortoises learned how to use touchscreens as part of a study which aimed to teach the animals navigational techniques.

To understand how tortoises learn to navigate around their environment, the researchers tested how the reptiles relied on cues to get around. They were given treats when the reptiles pecked blue circles in a specific position on a touchscreen.

Two of the tortoises went on to apply their knowledge to a real-life situation, approaching a food bowl on the same side as the circle that they were trained to peck on the screen.

A spokesperson for The British Chelonia Group said: “Our charity is happy to support this non-invasive, yet crucial research project of red-footed tortoises at the University of Lincoln, which will lead to a better understanding of intelligence in chelonia and their perception of the world. Revealing their true cognitive capabilities will improve husbandry and benefit tortoise keepers, vets and conservationists alike.”

Follow @coldbloodedcog on Twitter for more information on the research group and to keep up to date with the tortoises’ activities. Click here for terms & conditions.