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Giant tortoise found and reunited with family thanks to Oro Valley community

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 7:02 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - We hear about missing dogs and cats all the time, but what about a missing 150-pound tortoise? That’s a new one!

The tortoise’s owners spent their weekend looking everywhere for him, and they had a lot of help.

A couple days ago, Elliot the tortoise made an escape through a gate at his home when the storms blew it open. His owners were worried about how he would survive in this extreme heat, but the Oro Valley community came together to bring Elliot home safely.

“We were extremely lucky. We thought we may never see him again because he could’ve just kept going,” said Gary Iverson, Elliot’s owner.

The moment Cindy and Gary realized Elliot was gone, panic set in. They’ve had the 12-year-old African Sulcata since he was a baby. The couple did all they could to find him, but they weren’t alone in looking for this nomadic tortoise.

“The whole community just came together in terms of watching for him. We put up flyers, we put up pictures, stuff on people’s mailboxes. We actually saw a van driving around last night, really slow along with us, trying to find him. So, it was just an incredible outpour of people trying to help us out,” Gary Iverson said.

Even delivery drivers were on the lookout. But with the heat and the distance Elliot could travel, Gary and Cindy were worried they wouldn’t find him in time.

“We were worried about dehydration. We were worried about him staying in his own spot and not move because he starts to dehydrate from lack of energy and no food. One bad thing could lead to another, so we knew we only had a short amount of time to get to him for him to be okay,” he explained.

Monday morning, they got a call from one of their neighbors. Elliot made it about half a mile away from home before getting stuck at the back of a ten-acre ranch. He was hungry, thirsty, and had a run in with a cactus, but all in all he was in good shape.

“It really gives you a sense of community, of friendship and knowing that if this happened to somebody else, we would be right there with them as well, trying to help them out. Oro valley has a really strong community in trying to help each other,” Gary Iverson said.

So, it’s a happy ending to the story of the missing tortoise. To make sure Elliot doesn’t escape again, the owners are putting up reinforcements to protect the gate from monsoon storms.

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