Runaway tortoise found 30 miles from home - WKRN News 2

Runaway tortoise found 30 miles from home

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(AP Photo) (AP Photo)
Photo courtesy of the Maricopa Monitor. Photo courtesy of the Maricopa Monitor.

CASA GRANDE, Ariz. (AP) — A 100-pound tortoise featured in the Maricopa Monitor's "pet of the week" section has been reunited with his original owners, a full year after the reptile wandered off into the desert.

Rewind to April 2013.

Intel engineer Jonathan Grove, who volunteers at the Phoenix Herpetological Society, received a phone call from Pet Social Worker Director Kimberly Diedrich, who needed to find a foster home for a tortoise found in Hidden Valley.

Grove agreed to take the African-spurred tortoise and christened him "Eddie."

Eddie joined two female sulcatas in Grove's backyard, where he spent the days sunning himself and munching on grass.

By October, Grove decided to begin searching for the tortoise's owner.

"I went all over Hidden Valley handing out fliers, (but) basically all the people who called couldn't describe Eddie," Grove said. "Eddie's shell was so perfect that he was probably worth a lot of money. I really didn't want somebody to come and flip him and put him on Craigslist."

The Maricopa Monitor newspaper posted Eddie as "pet of the week" in the middle of November.

Just west of Casa Grande, a second missing tortoise rang alarm bells for George and Mary Plumb. They can't find their tortoise, Goliath, anywhere, which is especially worrisome since the couple already lost a tortoise named Samson when one of their teenage sons left a back gate open.

George started to ask friends for help, and the couple soon found Goliath underneath a bush. So when a friend mentioned he has spotted a tortoise in the newspaper, the Plumbs are puzzled.

"We kind of gave up on the big male," George said. "I assumed someone picked him up. We didn't worry too much because he was microchipped."

Diedrich arrived to scan the pet. Voilà! The microchip embedded in the animal's skin confirmed Eddie belonged to George.

So, how does a tortoise wander 30 miles?

"They are very big explorers, especially the males," Mary said.

"There's probably one or two still out there," George admits. "I don't have the best tortoise enclosure, I'll be honest. I probably need a brick wall."

The Plumb family owns a menagerie of animals on their property just west of Casa Grande. Neighborhood kids and children from churches and schools come to see the animals, more than 73 in all. In addition to the tortoises, the Plumbs own a wide array of peacocks, guinea hens, chickens and snakes.

But the male tortoises are special. George rescued one 19 years ago from a busy road, effectively launching his turtle obsession. In reality, the Plumbs aren't sure which name — Samson or Goliath — belongs to which male tortoise; the two are so similar they were mixed up long ago, Mary said.

The large land-crawlers even have mates. In August, 12 babies hatched from eggs burrowed in the ground. The couple intends to give the hatchlings to their future grandchildren. They don't even have grandchildren yet, but their four teenage boys know what's expected down the road.

Today, George can identify the wayward tortoise who ventured into the wild. That tortoise is now shy and takes longer to exit his shell when the Plumb family comes around with carrots for snacks.

The couple knows he'll come around eventually. After all, 19 years old is pretty darn young for a tortoise. The family looks forward to decades of more reptile fun — if the two rascals can manage to stay put.

"They are an instant love," Mary says.

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