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Last Updated: Thursday May 21 2009 14:32 GMT

Tortoise gets wig to fix broken shell

Timmy the tortoise with his shell crash helmet

A giant tortoise has got a specially-made wig to wear after getting a huge hole in the top of his shell.

It's thought 23-year-old Timmy was hurt by another tortoise at Paignton Zoo.

It could take up to 18 months for his inch-thick shell to grow back so his keepers decided to make a shell-like wig to stop his hole getting infected.

The fibreglass shell is stuck on with sticky tape and so far seems to be working pretty well. "He's eating and moving fine," said keeper Mike Bungard.

Timmy the tortoise and his broken shell
Timmy's fake shell wig is stuck on with sticky tape

"He likes to go in the bushes which is another reason for having it because he can then plough through them freely."

Timmy's shell wig was made by making a mould from a similar sized tortoise before adjusting it to get the perfect fit.

Giant tortoises like Timmy can grow up to 227kg, grow a shell of up to 122cm and live for more than 100 years.

Timmy and the other giant tortoises at Paignton Zoo were rehomed there after being confiscated by officials back in 1986 when they were illegally imported to the UK.