Man saves tortoise with hour of mouth to mouth

An amateur astronomer successfully resuscitated a drowned pet tortoise by giving it mouth-to-mouth for an hour.

John Fletcher did not flinch when he realised that there was only one way to bring his pet tortoise, Freda, back from the dead. He put his lips around her head and blew gently.


A pet owner saved his drowning tortoise’s life after giving it the kiss of life for an hour. John Fletcher found 45-year-old Freda at the bottom of his garden pond limp and looking dead.
Mr Fletcher started performing CPR – and gave the animal mouth to mouth resuscitation. Middle-aged “big lady tortoise” Freda lives with her owner at his home and has free rein of the back garden.

The amateur astronomer has built an observatory in his back yard in Gloucester, and often spends hours gazing at the stars.

But he was bewildered when Freda vanished on Saturday afternoon and eventually reached into the pond, where he found his pet.

Mr Fletcher said: “It must have been in there for at least an hour. I took it out and it was looking quite dead and limp. “I decided to put my own mouth around the head and give a few short blows having stretched its head out a little.

“A small half teaspoonful of water came out of its mouth which I had opened.”
Anything’s possible, I’ve seen crazier things. It was certainly very lucky.

He pushed on with bringing Freda back to life and performed life-saving treatment for another hour.

“I detected some movement so I warmed it up with a hairdryer, massaged its legs and neck and after another full hour it started gasping and opened its eyes,” Mr Fletcher said.

The retired postman added: “I rang my daughter up because I was very upset, then about an hour later I decided to try and save Freda by breathing in her mouth.

“I first did it and about a teaspoon of water came out. I didn’t think much of it, I thought it was just pushed out by my air, but then her leg twitched.
“I thought it was just a nerve or something but I decided to try again and its head went in like a tortoise does when it’s scared.

“I then massaged her chest for about an hour and the legs kept moving and finally she came back to life.

“Today, she’s eaten a quarter of a tomato and two lettuce leave so I don’t think she’s got brain damage.

“She’s just walking around and looking at things like normal, the only difference is that now she’s looking at a barrier around the pond that I put up yesterday. …

Loz Bogaert, owner of Reptile-Nation in Brighton and a herpetologist of 26 years, said: “Tortoises can manage buoyancy for only a short time.

“If it was deep water I would imagine it would just sink like a rock and its little lungs would fill up with water.
“I can imagine that mouth-to-mouth is possible but you need palpitations on the chest and that would be difficult to do through a shell.

“If you managed to suck the water out its lungs then I guess you could breathe back in again and get some movement going.

“Anything’s possible, I’ve seen crazier things. It was certainly very lucky and a borderline miracle, definitely.”


Turtles live in water, but tortoises are different animals. Tortoises live on land and are not so good in water. They can also live much longer than turtles or humans. When you realize that a tortoise can live 180+ years, doing whatever you can to save one’s life makes sense. Respect.

Temporary “tortoise head breath” would be worth it, but can you imagine even thinking to try? I’d guess that both John and Freda are glad he did.

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