Lots of things grow in spare rooms, like dust bunnies, mold, cobwebs and clutter. Apparently, so do lost tortoises, even without being given food or water for 30 years.
A red-footed tortoise named Manuela happened to be the Almedia family’s favorite pet. The beautiful girl would wander around the yard nibbling on grass, soaking up the sun.
But one day, the juvenile red-footed tortoise went missing. The family had workers at their home in Realengo, Brazil, who were tackling a project; they feared someone left the yard gate open and Manuela wandered away.
Leonel Almeida was heartbroken at the thought of the family pet going missing. Kids Lenita and Leandro were crushed, too, especially since their dad brought it home for Lenita and everyone had quickly fallen in love with the tortoise.
Fast-forward 30 years to when the family patriarch sorrowfully passed away. Their dad had always gathered up broken and discarded electronic objects, equipment and fixer-upper projects, stashing them away in a spare room upstairs.
He had picked up so many items over the years that it occupied not just a room but also the entire second floor of their home.
After mourning their loss, the kids turned their attention to the dreaded second floor full of Leonel’s collections. They had no idea what was lurking up the flight of stairs and beyond.
Leonel considered the items he gathered to be treasures, but the kids thought it was junk.
So they set out to toss everything away. In the process, they almost accidentally tossed out the most precious treasure on that floor.
“He just kept accumulating things. We never dared go inside that room. Anything he thought he could fix on the street, he took. If he found an old television, he thought that in the future he could use some piece to fix a new one, and so things started accumulating.”
It turned out that there was one very important treasure lumbering around the second floor, one that shocked everyone!
When the family entered the room, it was brimming with the items their dad lovingly stashed there. It was musty and quite dirty.
While trekking to the dumpster with armload after armload of items, a neighbor noticed something in one of the boxes.
“I put the box on the pavement…and a neighbor said, ‘You’re not throwing out that as well, are you?'”
Apparently hidden inside a box that contained a broken record player was none other than Manuela!
“I went white and didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
The family rejoiced at finding Manuela after three long decades. But how on earth did she survive?
No one had ever fed her or given her fresh water. Rio de Janeiro veterinarian Jeferson Pires noted that the old furniture Leonel plucked off the street probably was infested with termites especially after sitting in the spare room for so long.
The tortoise probably survived all that time off the pests, as well as other insects and possibly condensation when thirsty. How is that even possible?
“[They] can survive for two to three years without food. They eat fruit, leaves, dead animals, even feces.”
The family still marvels that Manuela lived that long in the spare room full of junk.
They have reserve fat pads that they can draw upon for sustenance when food is scarce, but not for 30 years.
“We’re all thrilled to have Manuela back. But no one can understand how she managed to survive for 30 years in there—it’s just unbelievable.”
Tortoises are the longest-living land animals in the world, but for 30 years without being fed or watered directly? What a crazy story of survival!
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