This means I still have a little hope of finding Butterspoon, the sweet tabby cat I lost in my grandmother’s house when I was 10. Well, I’d better not get my hopes up, because tortoises are unique animals with one of the longest lifespans among living creatures and can live up to 150 years. This is why they symbolize longevity in several cultures around the world, especially among the Chinese. Fitting this symbolism, a tortoise lost for 30 years has been found by his family!
In 1982, the Almeida family who live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, couldn’t find their pet tortoise after construction workers had worked on the house and left the front door open for too long . They were devastated and searched for her for a long time. Later on, they assumed the red-footed tortoise had crawled into a forest near their home and they would never see her again.
Well, she was destined to be a part of that family for a long time, and nothing was going to change that.
30 years later, in January 2013, their father, Lionel Almeida passed away. He kept a storage room second floor where he hoarded everything from old furniture to broken electronics and countless old records. The clutter was taking up useful space, and so his children decided it was time to let all the junk go.
Manuela is reunited with her loving family
When Lionel’s son, Leandro took out a box containing an old record player to the dumpster, a neighbor jokingly asked if he meant to throw away the tortoise poking out of a hole in the box. His astonishment was palpable. It was Manuela!
Leandro said to Brazil’s Globo TV: “I put the box on the pavement for the rubbish men to collect, and a neighbor 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.”
Manuela was reunited with her real owner, Lenita Almeida, Lionel’s daughter who had been given the tortoise when she was a child. She was thrilled to have her sweet pet back. She explained why the family had never bothered to check the storage room for Manuela.
“Everything my father thought he could fix, he picked up and brought home,” Lenita said. “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. 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.”
It was a wonderful New Year’s gift in 2013 for the entire family. While still mourning the loss of their father, they regained another member of the family to ease their grief. Tortoises are such blessings to humanity.
People online doubted the credibility of the story
When the story went viral in 2013, thousands of people ruled it a stunt, arguing that it’s impossible for a tortoise to survive 30 years without food, water, air, and vegetation.
In the family’s defense, Jeferson Pires, a vet in Rio de Janeiro, explained that red-footed tortoises are remarkably resilient and can survive long periods without food or water .
“They are particularly resilient and can survive for two to three years without food. In the wild they eat fruit, leaves, dead animals, even feces,” Pires said.
However, Pires suspects that Manuela had been feeding on termites attracted to the room by the decaying furniture.
- Stephen Messenger. Family cleans house, finds pet tortoise missing since 1982. Tree Hugger. https://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/family-cleans-house-and-finds-pet-tortoise-went-missing-30-years-earlier.html. Retrieved 19-12-19
- Matt Roper. Tortoise ‘survives in locked store room for 30 years’. Telegraph. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/brazil/9827256/Tortoise-survives-in-locked-store-room-for-30-years.html. Retrieved 19-12-19
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