Parting with a family pet is always sad, particularly when the pet goes missing suddenly. And many times, no matter how many “Have you see Rex?” posters get touted around the neighborhood, pets who go missing stay missing.
That’s how it seemed it would be when Manuela, a pet tortoise, went missing from her Rio de Janeira, Brazil home in 1983. Despite a lengthy search, the Almeida family who owned her assumed that she was missing forever. They assumed that she ran — er, crawled? — away when builder left the family’s front door open.
Thirty years after Manuela’s disappearance, Leonel Almeida passed away, and his children began the task of clearing out a second-floor room in the house that Leonel had uses as storage. The room was always kept locked as Leonel would bring home broken electrical equipment with plans to repair.
Leonel’s son, Leandro, got the surprise of his life while toting boxes out to the roadside garbage pile. Leandro recalls, “I put the box on the pavement for the rubbish men to collect, and a neighbour said, ‘You’re not throwing out the tortoise as well are you?’ “
“I looked and saw her. At that moment I turned white, I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
The tortoise was residing in a box with an old record player. After being missing for 30 years, Manuela, it turns out, never left home.
Leonel’s daughter Lenita, who had been given the tortoise as a childhood pet, recalled of her father’s store room, “Everything my father thought he could fix, he picked up and brought home. If he found an old television he thought he might be able to use a part of it to fix another one in the future, so he just kept accumulating things.”
She added, “We never dared go inside that room.”
“We’re all thrilled to have Manuela back. But no one can understand how she managed to survive for 30 years in there, it’s just unbelievable.”
Rio de Janeiro vet Jeferson Pires explained that Manuela’s red-footed species of tortoise can go for long periods — even years — without eating. He noted that the species is “particularly resilient and can survive for two to three years without food. In the wild they eat fruit, leaves, dead animals, even feces.”
He adds that Manuela may have survived by eating termites from the wooden floor.
[Image via Shutterstock]