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Jill Martin

1953 – 2005


16 September 2005

The Tortoise Trust has just lost our dear Jill, co-founder and guiding light from the very beginning. Earlier this year, Jill collapsed suddenly from what turned out to be a brain tumour (metastasis). This was successfully treated by means of neurosurgery and radiotherapy, by the wonderful team of doctors and nurses at Morriston and Singleton hospitals in Swansea, Wales. Jill made excellent progress and was soon back at work, as ever, tending tortoise patients and running the Tortoise Trust office. Unfortunately, the brain tumour was secondary to a very aggressive cervical cancer, and despite all efforts, in recent weeks, Jill’s condition deteriorated rapidly. She died today, with her family and friends.

Jill Martin was a pioneer. She was one of the very first people to see the need for better keeper education, and for improvements in the veterinary management of sick chelonians. She played a vital role in developing many of the husbandry and rehabilitation methods that are now commonplace and accepted as standard, such as effective nutritional management to prevent MBD, the importance of substrates and microclimates, the development of effective indoor/outdoor habitats, and techniques for nursing sick tortoises back to health. Although many do not realise it, Jill Martin was there at the beginning and inspired and developed these techniques from nothing. As a field-worker she was a bundle of energy, with an amazing and acute eye for natural history detail.  She was a tireless worker for tortoises and turtles. She worked 7 days a week, and never complained. She answered thousands of phone calls and letters from worried keepers, and was always available to take in any sick or unwanted tortoise. She never turned a sick or needy animal away in all of the 30 years that I have known her. She was a wonderfully talented musician, an artist, and faithful friend and colleague.


Countless animals around the world directly owe their health and lives to Jill Martin and her work. Jill knew she was dying, and her greatest wish was that this work must continue after she had gone. We are determined to make that so. Jill generously endowed a special charitable fund to facilitate this.

She was the only daughter of Joyce and John Martin, of Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, who survive her*. Nothing can compensate for the loss of such a loving and devoted daughter, but we hope – and Jill hoped – that by seeing her work and name continue those who loved her might find some comfort.

God rest, Jill. You deserve it.

Andy C. and Nadine  Highfield

* Sadly, John Martin died only 8 weeks after Jill, and her mother, Joyce, followed early in 2006.