Second tortoise reported missing in Yuma area
Amidst the barking and chaos of Paula Rivadeneira’s home – which doubles as Old Souls K9 Rescue – one solitary tortoise remains huddled in a corner, missing his friend who is one of two tortoises to disappear from Yuma area nonprofits this year.
Tortoises are not Rivadeneira’s normal rescue animals. As founder of Old Souls K9 Rescue, she runs a hospice for geriatric dogs, ensuring comfort in the time they have left.
While African Sulcata Tortoises can live well beyond 100, Agajuwas and Babalu are not quite that old yet. However, only Agaju was present when the Sun interviewed Rivadeneira because Babalu has been missing since April 26, although Rivadeneira hesitated t
o report the incident to the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office until April 28.
« I didn’t call the sheriff’s office because I didn’t think it was reportable, » she said.
Babalu was a rescue tortoise and while she cannot say for sure, Rivadeneira said it looked like the back of her shell had been chipped away at.
« The back of the shell looks chipped away, » said Rivadeneira. « So we think Babalu is a female because people do that so that males have easier access to fertilize a female. »
This is the second case of tortoise disappearance to be brought to public attention. In July, another African Sulcata, Buddy, disappeared from Saddles of Joy, an organization that works with special needs people via touch therapy. After being missing for almost a month, Buddy reappeared at their facility on County 14th Street last week.
The African Sulcata tortoise is a grassland — not desert — tortoise, that is legal in the United States to keep as a pet and to sell. They can be quite lucrative, with full-grown specimens going for between $1,000 and $1,500, according to Rivadeneira.
Yet a breeding female can be worth much more than the single sale, since each baby in her clutch can sell for anywhere between $50 and $100.
« She was probably tortoise-napped and the person is either selling her and getting $1,000 or breeding and selling the babies, » she said.
Rivadeneira also said that she found it highly doubtful that the tortoise would have been able to leave on her own.
« There is nowhere for her to go out, » she said. « But with the gates unlocked anyone can show up and just take her.
« I can’t imagine her just leaving, » she continued. « She had no way to leave and she had no reason. »
Rivadeneira noted that Agaju appears to have noted Babalu’s absence.
« Agaju has been acting differently, » she said. « He misses her. »
She also said that she has been perusing the pages of Craigslist to verify whether someone is using Babalu for their own economic gain.
With all that being said, Rivadeneira said that she does not have that much hope left that Babalu will return.
« Not unless someone actually has her and has a conscience, » she said. « It would be amazing if we had her walk up like happened at Saddles of Joy. »
Yuma Sun Staff Writer Kevin G. Andrade can be contacted at 928-539-6853 or firstname.lastname@example.org.