Monday 16 July 2018

'Runaway' tortoise missing for six months found 322 metres from home

Travelled at a speed of less than 0.00005mph

STOCK IMAGE
STOCK IMAGE

Victoria Ward

It was less of a great escape and more a laborious plod.

Tallulah the tortoise, who broke free from her Oxford garden last July, was found on Wednesday just 322 metres away, having travelled at a speed of less than 0.00005mph.

The nine-year-old pet had lived happily with her owners, Danielle Morris, 50 and her daughter Leanna, 29, for many years, never venturing beyond the confines of their garden.

That is until six months ago, when she was enjoying the sunshine, chewing on plants, and trotting up and down the lawn when she came across a small foxhole and disappeared.

A lot has happened in the intervening months; catastrophic hurricanes, royal engagements, a Brexit breakthrough and a sex abuse scandal.

But for Tallulah, it was a case of making slow and steady progress in a dead straight line, through a neighbouring back garden, past the house and through their front garden, carefully crossing a rather busy road and finally, making her way into a school field.

It was there she was found, some 4,368 hours later, by a shocked pupil, having endured two snow falls and managed to dodge foxes, birds and, astonishingly, two lanes of busy traffic.

Mrs Morris, a kitchen assistant at Oxford University’s Balliol College, told the Telegraph: “We were devastated when she disappeared and we looked everywhere.

“We put posters up, posted leaflets through neighbours doors, contacted the local school, pet shops and whoever we could think of. But time passed and we eventually gave up hope.

“We realised she had gone. We reluctantly gave away the box she lived in and all her food and really did not expect to see her again.”

But then, on Wednesday, to Ms Morris’s astonishment, she received a phone call from the local RSPCA officer, who revealed Tallulah, who was microchipped, had been found over the road at Cheney School.

“We just couldn’t believe it,” she added. “She was literally over the road, a stone’s throw away.

“The most bizarre thing is how she managed to cross the road. Gipsy Lane is incredibly busy; it’s near the school, a hospital and a crossroads. Maybe she trotted across last summer in the sunshine and got lucky, or maybe she crossed at night.

“We were so pleased. She was a family pet, I had bought her as a present for my daughter.”

Tallulah is now being looked after by the local vet. She had lost weight, had an eye infection and blotchy skin, suggesting something else might be wrong.

“We’re just waiting now for a call with the all-clear,” Ms Morris added. “My daughter is looking for a new box for her, we’re just hoping she will be OK.”

She said that despite their reputation, when the sun was shining, tortoises could actually move quite quickly.

“They’re like little torpedoes,” she said.

“In the summer when the sun was beating down on her back, she went up and down the garden, always in a straight line.

“If we saw her heading for the fence, we’d bring her back to start again near the house.

“At night time they tend to slow right down and then they hibernate in the winter.”

Ms Morris speculated that Tallulah may have crossed the busy road last summer and then hibernated in a bush in the school grounds but acknowledged they would never know the full story.

Charlotte Broom, assistant head of Cheney School, told the BBC: "There it was, bless it, making its way across our greenery.

"The best thing to do was to get a box, and I decided I'd be brave enough to pick it up and make sure we could keep it safe."

RSPCA animal collection officer Grace Mead said: "We hope she makes a full recovery and does not go on any more adventures."

Telegraph.co.uk

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