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"Unusual tortoise" found in Florida identified as "escape artist" pet that went missing in 2020

Nature: Galápagos Tortoises
Nature: Galápagos Tortoises 02:00

An African sulcata tortoise found wandering alone in Florida has been identified as a pet tortoise that went missing in 2020. The Putnam County Sheriff's office posted about the animal on Facebook on Saturday, saying deputies spotted the "unusual tortoise" in Interlachen.

African sulcata tortoises, which are native to the Sahara Desert, are "escape artists," as they can dig out of enclosures, the sheriff's department said. They said the tortoise definitely seemed like someone's pet, since the turtle "likes people and head pats." Florida's Wildest Animal Refuge took in the tortoise as they searched for a possible owner.

An African sulcata tortoise that went missing in 2020 has been recovered, authortities said. Putnam County Sheriff's Office

Little did he they know at the time, the tortoise was someone's pet – and was last seen three and a half years ago. 

Social media followers began sending the refuge a post from 2020 about a missing tortoise, the refuge said in a Facebook post. The photos from the 2020 post matched the photos of the newly found tortoise, who went missing in the same area. 

Turns out it was the same missing tortoise – found five miles from where it went missing – and its owner has been found. 

"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," the refuge said. 

Also known as African spurred tortoises, these animals dig deep into the earth when it's hot, to sit in the cool underground, according to the San Diego Zoo. Like other tortoises, they have stubby feet that are good for digging. 

In 2021, two sulcata tortoises in Miami went missing after digging an escape route, according to the Miami Herald. They were reunited with their owners thanks to the Next Door app, which connects neighbors. 

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