A zoo has sought help from an underfloor heating firm in Malmesbury to assist with the conservation of a species of giant tortoise.

Vysal Ltd in Little Somer-ford swapped the interior of homes to the interior of a reptile house when they were called on to design a specialist exhibit for Galapagos tortoises at London Zoo.

The plans included installing a heated mat under the pool and throughout the enclosure, controlled by a digital thermostat to replicate their habitat experienced on the equator to the west of Ecuador.

Vysel commercial director Richard Lutwyche said: “To do something like this is quite unusual and that’s what makes it so interesting for the guys here generally.

“It isn’t just about working with animals at the zoo though, it’s about serious conservation and providing the perfect environment for them to breed and thrive in.

“It’s always nice to do something different, instead of just bathrooms, although that’s important too – that’s our bread and butter.”

The Galapagos tortoise has declined in numbers from more than 250,000 in the 16th century to around 3,000 today. The decline was caused by hunting for tortoise meat and oil, habitat clearance for agriculture, and the introduction of non-native animals such as rats, goats and pigs, which prey on tortoise eggs.

In their native environment, the tortoises, which can grow to over 400kg with a length of over 1.8m, often seek out mud wallows or rain-formed pools to regulate their temperature and to protect them from parasites – it was this habitat that the zoo experts wanted to recreate.

However, such pools in London would be too cold, so it was deemed necessary to provide heating that would give constant temperatures.

With this in mind, Dr Ian Stephen, curator of herpet-ology at ZSL London Zoo, requested that Vysal design a scheme to be built into the new facility.

Vysal offer a lifetime guarantee with its underfloor heating products – generally reckoned in human terms to be around 70 years. But the Galapagos tortoises live to about 170, so the firm has offered to extend the warranty.