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Fleeting Wonders: A Meeting of the Secret International Tortoise Assembly?

A member of the Pattenburg Volunteer Fire Company posing with Sulley, finally found a mile from home.

A member of the Pattenburg Volunteer Fire Company posing with Sulley, finally found a mile from home. (Photo: the Pattenburg Volunteer Fire Company)

It was a busy weekend in the tortoise world, with not one, but two elderly tortoises absconding from home and leaving their owners in distress. Sulley, a tortoise from northern New Jersey, and Tortoise, a Californian creature (and possibly Sulley’s partner-in-crime), both escaped their homes for no identifiable reason.

The suspicious timing of these two tortoises’ attempted getaways implies possible plans to attend a Secret Tortoise Creep (creep is the actual scientific term for a group or gathering of tortoises).

Tortoises are underrated escape artists. Though they can’t swim, they can hold their breath for a very long time, as they have to empty their lungs before retreating into their shells. They’re also a lot faster and stealthier than they may appear, can forage for plant sustenance almost anywhere, and have the benefit of carrying their homes on their backs. 

The Pattenburg Volunteer Fire Company and Timmy, their search-and-rescue dog, head out in search of Sulley, while a local cameraman captures the action,A member of the Pattenburg Volunteer Fire Company and their search-and-rescue dog head out in search of Sulley, while a local cameraman captures the action. (Photo: the Pattenburg Volunteer Fire Company)

Sulley, a 100-pound tortoise from Union Township, New Jersey, went missing over Labor Day weekend. The Pattenburg Volunteer Fire Company enlisted their search-and-rescue dog Timmy, a German Shepherd, to hunt down the wily reptile in nearby woods. The search was set to continue into the next day, when on Friday morning, a motorcyclist spotted the miscreant a mile from home.

Upon the return of Sulley, his owner, Laura Roerig, began crying in relief, while her friend Phil explained to nj.com that the tortoise walks as fast as a human, probably covering six inches with each step—a veritable speedster. Roerig later joked that Sulley is currently in time-out. 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, California’s San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus reported a 200-pound tortoise found lurking on the streets in Hemet. It turned out this was not just any old tortoise (though he is quite old–over 100 years old), but Tortoise the tortoise, belonging to Vince Tarantino.

Before he was able to reclaim his pet, Tarantino had to provide proof of ownership–a few other locals were claiming Tortoise was theirs, including a woman who lost a tortoise named Carlos more than two years ago.

Tortoise made a beeline to his burrow after arriving back home, with Tarantino reporting that the animal was very tired after his “vacation.”

Sneaky Sulley, found at last.

Sneaky Sulley, found at last. He wont be making it to the Secret Creep. (The Pattenburg Volunteer Fire Company)

This past weekend is confirmation that losing one’s tortoise is a source of widespread concern. Luckily, there are resources out there to address the issue. The Tortoise Protection Group works to reunite missing tortoises with their owners, alongside the Tortoise Trust and Tortoise Group

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to cara@atlasobscura.com.