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Runaway tortoises

Runaway tortoises

APPLE VALLEY — A local tortoise sanctuary is asking for the public’s help in finding two tortoises that went missing Tuesday.

Turley, a 100-pound African Sulcata male tortoise, disappeared Tuesday evening along with his friend Sierra, a smaller female tortoise.

A gate at the sanctuary was accidentally left unchained and the tortoises pushed on the gate until they could get out from underneath it, Scott Merlo told the Daily Press Wednesday.

« They are very strong, » Merlo said, « and they move a lot quicker than most people would think. »

Sulcata tortoises can move about as fast as an average person and the runaway tortoises could be miles away from the sanctuary, Merlo said.

Merlo and his mother, Suzy Moran, have run the Sulcata Sanctuary from their home in 22445 Waalew Road just off of Central Road for more than 15 years, according to Moran.

« We take in unwanted Sulcatas that have outgrown their novelty and welcome, » Moran said.

The sanctuary has taken in tortoises from locations as far away as New York, she said. Moran previously worked with Turtle Homes, a national turtle and tortoise rescue that helps find warm-weather placements for Sulcata tortoises.

Turley, a friendly tortoise who will not hesitate to walk up to people, came from Oregon and was taken in by the sanctuary after his elderly owners could no longer care for him. Moran said the owners still keep in touch to check in on Turley from time to time.

« We are hoping to find Turley quickly so we don’t have to tell them he is gone, » Moran said.

Unlike desert tortoises, African Sulcata tortoises (also known as spurred tortoises) do not hibernate and require heated housing in the winter months, Moran said.

« We want to bring our ‘kids’ home before the nights get too cold for them, » Moran said.

Turley is not the first reported runaway at the sanctuary. Roseanne, a female Sulcata affectionately referred to as Turley’s « girlfriend, » also went missing a few years ago but was ultimately found a few miles away by a nearby resident, Merlo said.

Any residents who see Turley and Sierra are asked to call the Sulcata Sanctuary at 760-686-8392.