A tortoise had a lucky escape from death after being spotted cruising in the slow lane of a busy motorway.
It was discovered by pet shop owner Barry Ash while he was driving along the M26 in Kent on his way to Heathrow to pick up a consignment of tropical fish.
The shocked 60-year-old owner of Ark Pets and Aquatics said: ‘I was just coming off the M20 and going on to the M26 and it was really quiet, no traffic in front of me and none behind me.
As I was going along I just caught something out of the corner of my eye and I immediately thought ‘tortoise’.’
Pulling over to the hard shoulder, the slow escape of the animal left Mr Ash’s heart racing as he discovered the 11-inch long creature crawling along the inside lane of the motorway.
Well below the 70mph speed limit, tortoises, some of which can live up to 150 years, travel roughly at 0.3mph if in a hurry.
The pet shop owner, from Ergeton, Kent who has stores in Maidstone, Canterbury and Gillingham, added: ‘I saw a car coming and waved it over into the other lane and quickly picked the tortoise up and put it in the back of my van.
‘It was lucky really because at that point a stream of HGVs were coming along the road so he would have come out a lot flatter than he is now.
‘He got a trip up to Heathrow and back and now he’s living with me and has been nicknamed M26.
‘I don’t think he can be much more than 20 years old but he’s doing all right.
‘He’s got quite an attitude on him though and doesn’t like being caged in so I can see why he made his escape.’