life in the slow lane

I’d like you to meet Manuela.

She is a maven of mystery,

a practitioner of patience,

a survivor in the purest sense.

Manuela, I should mention,

is also …

a turtle,

a red-footed tortoise, to be exact,

and she has a story that rivals fiction.

Let’s just say that the Count of Monte Cristo had nothing on this resilient reptile.

You see, Manuela has been in exile for 30 years …

The Almeida family in Rio de Janeiro lost Manuela, their family pet, in 1982. She simply disappeared one day, but despite dedicated efforts to find her, Manuela didn’t turn up. Her owners assumed that she had escaped from their home through an open door and never dreamed that they would see her again.

Geochelone carbonaria/Red Footed Tortoise, photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; Ltshears

But, in January, the grown children of the Almeida family began cleaning out a second floor room that was filled with their late father’s clutter of gadgets and gizmos—dusty old junk that he had collected over the years with the intention of refurbishing. As the family hauled boxes out to the curb for garbage pickup, a neighbor noticed something unusual.

“You’re not throwing out the turtle as well are you?” he asked.

Leandro Almeida peered into a box with an old record player and saw Manuela. “At that moment, I turned white,” he told Brazil’s Globo G1 news. “I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

A veterinarian in Rio reported that red-footed tortoises have been known to live without food for two to three years in the wild. But 30 years makes Manuela a miracle. The vet suggested that Manuela must have survived by eating small insects and licking condensation.

Can you imagine how her first bite of fresh greens must have tickled her tongue?

If Manuela doesn’t pull another disappearing act, she may have another decade or two of companionship with the Almeida family, as red-footed tortoises have a life expectancy of around 50 years.

  1. Terry Steinmetz says:

    What a story of survival! And isn’t she so cute?!

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    What a face! I am so happy to hear that she is still with us. A national treasure indeed!!

  3. Correen Drake says:

    Never give up…. wow what a story, made my day.

  4. Deborah says:

    That is wild! When we lived in lower Alabama and would come back to Tennessee for visits, my kids always took turtles home. They always escaped. I wonder where they are now.

  5. Barbara Grace says:

    How cool. Way to go Manuela!

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