A missing “escape artist” tortoise that vanished more than three years ago was reunited with her family Saturday after she was found just five miles from her Florida home.
The incredible outcome was kickstarted when Putnam County deputies noticed “an unusual-looking tortoise” crawling her way across a highway in Interlachen, a town 30 miles west of Gainesville.
The officers scooped up the 60-pound tortoise and with the help of professionals identified her as an African Sulcata, an endangered species native to the southern edge of the Sahara Desert and well-known as “escape artists” that “can dig out of their enclosures.”
This rare tortoise was especially friendly, the deputies quickly noticed.
“He is definitely someone’s tortoise as he likes people and head pats,” the department said in a Facebook post hoping to reach the owner.
“Also we have no idea what gender the tortoise is as we did not ask to look up his shell. So if it is yours, that might be a question.”
The deputies warned that the massive Chelonian would be turned over to Florida’s Wildest Animal Rescue if she was not claimed.
Luckily, the post was shared hundreds of times and reached a friend of the tortoise’s owner, who took note of the animal’s distinctive markings on her husky shell.
The reptile vanished in April 2020 after escaping from an enclosure in the front yard of her home in April 2020.
There were occasional sightings of the massive tortoise in the following weeks, but the pet always managed to escape.
When she was finally recovered Saturday, she was just five miles from her home.
“A truly unbelievable story, it just goes to show you to never give up hope!” Florida’s Wildest Animal Rescue said.
“She is in a little bit of rough shape from spending so many cold winters here without heat, but she will be okay, and we recommended a trip to the vet. What a happy ending! We are so happy we were able to assist in reuniting her with her family!”