Renegade Giant Tortoise Found in Bushes Outside Zoo After Two Weeks on the Lam

"She can walk faster than we can ever imagine."

Aug 16 2017, 6:35pm

Abuh (right) at Shibukawa Animal Park. 

Image: AFP Photo/Handout/Shibukawa Animal Park

The phrase "escaped zoo animals" conjures up visions of marauding lions and stampeding elephants breaking free of their paddocks. But then Abuh, a 35-year-old female Aldabra giant tortoise, came crawling along from Shibukawa Animal Park in Japan.

Abuh is often allowed to wander freely around the park grounds during daytime hours. But on the morning of August 1, security footage captured her walking right on out the zoo for a taste of the wild.

When zoo officials failed to locate the renegade reptile, they offered a ¥500,000 ($4,500) reward to anyone who could track her down in Okayama prefecture, where the park is located. On Wednesday, two weeks after her daring break, an unidentified man and his son found Abuh in the bushes outside the park. She had made it an epic 140 meters (460 feet) from the main entrance.

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According to Shibukawa Animal Park employee Yoshimi Yamana, Abuh was healthy and had suffered no injuries during her joyride. "We were so relieved that she came back safely as she is so popular among children," said Yamane, in an AFP statement. "We will try to take new measures so that this won't happen again," but she did not elaborate on specifics.

Tatsuaki Murase, another Shibukawa Animal Park official, had previously speculated that Abuh may have been kidnapped upon leaving the grounds. But the tortoise's recent history of exploration implies she exited the park on her own volition.

News report on Abuh's recovery. Video: ニュース/YouTube

It's not even the first time in the past month that Abuh has been found roaming around outside the enclosure. On July 21, as Yamana was driving into work, she spotted the tortoise sauntering down the road outside the park.

"She can walk faster than we can ever imagine," said Yamana, according to NDTV. Though giant tortoises like Abuh tend to putter along at under a half-mile per hour, some tortoises can reach speeds of five miles per hour for short stints.

Given that tortoises have a reputation for taking life at a slow and steady pace, Abuh's disappearance act may seem out of character for her kind. But in reality, captive tortoises have a notable knack for escape artistry, perhaps because people underestimate their gumption.

On Tuesday, for instance, two "truant tortoises" were recovered by police in a "not-so-high-speed chase" in Newton, Kansas, and a giant tortoise named Rhoda, who frequently breaks loose of his enclosure in Seattle, earned his very own profile piece in Patch.

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