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On August 1, security footage revealed that a giant tortoise named Aboo had walked out the gates of an animal park in Japan and wandered off in an unknown direction.
You’d think she wouldn’t get very far, but staff were unable to locate the tortoise for more than two weeks. Worried that she may have been kidnapped, this week the zoo announced a ¥500,000 (US$4,500) reward for finding Aboo.
And just yesterday a local bounty hunter finally apprehended the reptile, having spotted her chilling in some bushes a mere 140 metres (460 feet) from her home, the popular Shibukawa Animal Park in Okayama.
According to Kyodo News, Aboo was found by local resident Seiichi Tonai and his 15-year-old son Akira, who were inspired to go on the hunt after hearing that the zoo was offering a cash reward. They succeeded just 15 minutes into their quest and couldn’t believe their luck.
“It will be a good memory for me from this summer break,” said Akira.
Aboo, who is about 35 years old, was found to be in perfect health and immediately demolished some fruit upon her return to the park. She is allowed to freely roam the zoo grounds, and this facilitated her escape.
“I feel relieved. From now on, we’ll make sure to take perfect care of our animals,” one of the zoo staff, Yoshimi Yamane, told Japan Times.
The escape artist belongs to the Aldabra giant tortoise species (Aldabrachelys gigantea), which are some of the largest tortoises in the world.
Aboo herself is over a metre (three feet) long and weighs about 55 kg (120 lbs), so you’d think she would be easily spotted in the neighbourhood. But we guess you can never underestimate a truly free spirit.
It’s actually Aboo’s second go on the lam in less than a month, since the tortoise already wandered off on July 21, only to be quickly caught on a nearby road.
“I spotted her on the way to the zoo. I stopped my car and asked my colleagues to help,” Yamane told AFP. “She can walk faster than we can ever imagine.”
Apparently, when it comes to the walking speed of giant tortoises, it’s all down to whether they are striding somewhere with purpose or just randomly grazing through the shrubbery.
Their average walking speed is about 0.3 km/h (0.18 mph), so technically it would have taken Aboo less than hour to get to the spot where she was caught.
If she’d wanted, she’d be gone much further, as experiments on Galapagos giant tortoises have shown they can cover an astonishing 12.8 km (8 miles) in just 2-3 days.
So it’s possible she had already done a wider sweep of the area before Tonai and his son finally spotted her. The zoo staff told Kyodo News that they had already searched the place where the reptile was finally captured.
Despite her tendency to wander a bit too far, Aboo will continue to traverse the zoo grounds at her leisure, since her gentle disposition makes her super-popular with kids.
But the park has announced they will be coming up with new measures to prevent the tortoise from getting off their radar again.