Missing Sulcata tortoises found

Missing Sulcata tortoises found

Turley, an African Sulcata Tortoise, is seen back home at the Sulcata Sanctuary in Apple Valley on Monday. Turley and another Sulcata went missing last week when a gate was accidentally left unchained. David Pardo, Daily Press

APPLE VALLEY — The runaway African Sulcata tortoises that went missing last week in Apple Valley have been found and returned to their home.

Turley, the 100-pound Sulcata tortoise that disappeared last Tuesday along with his friend, Sierra, a smaller Sulcata, was found a few miles away from his home by a fellow resident, Scott Merlo told the Daily Press Monday.1

The tortoises made their escape by pushing on a gate until they could get out from underneath it last Tuesday. The gate was reportedly left unchained on accident.

Merlo and his mother, Suzy Moren, have run the Sulcata Sanctuary from their home at 22445 Waalew Road for more than 15 years, Moren previously told the Daily Press.

Sulcata tortoises can move about as fast as an average person, Merlo said, and he and his mother were afraid Turley and Sierra could have wandered several miles away from the sanctuary. Fortunately, that was not the case for these particular runaways.

While Sierra was found early Saturday near a home about a block behind the sanctuary, her larger companion did not return home until Sunday evening, Merlo said.

« I was house-sitting in Sun City the day before yesterday and got a text from my mom saying, ‘I don’t think Turley’s going to come back,’  » Merlo said. « Then yesterday evening as I headed up the hill, I got the call. »2

Merlo said he was driving up the Cajon Pass Sunday evening when he saw a man pushing his bicycle up the pass. The man, identified only as Josh, was heading to Route 66 from Santa Monica and Merlo offered him a ride into Victorville.

As Merlo gave the man a ride, he said he received a call from a fellow Apple Valley resident who told him Turley had been found in his yard on South Road, just a few miles away from the sanctuary.

« He knew just by looking at Turley that he wasn’t just some wild thing running through the desert, » Merlo said. « He belonged to someone. »

The man told Merlo that Turley had wandered into the yard late Tuesday, shortly after the tortoises first went missing, and had been at his home since. His daughter saw a flyer for the missing tortoises Sunday evening and recognized Turley from the photo.

They notified Merlo, who promptly headed over and with the help of Josh, brought Turley back home.

The friendly tortoises were not hurt from their escapade and were happy to be back home, Merlo said.

« Turley just went straight for his food, » Merlo said. « Thanks to everyone for helping us out. We’re so glad to have them back home. »