up, Nathalye De Almeida heard stories from her mother about a beloved pet tortoise named Manuela, whom she’d had as a child in the early 1980s. The stories, however, were always tinged with heartache.That’s because one day in 1982, when Almeida’s mom was just 8 years old, Manuela had gone missing.
At the time, Manuela’s family assumed the tortoise had wandered away from home, never to be seen again — but they couldn’t have been more wrong.Flash forward 30 years to 2013. Almeida’s grandfather had recently passed away, and her family gathered at her mom’s childhood home to sort through his possessions.
Almeida’s grandfather had left behind a very cluttered attic, and as the the room was cleared and his things moved out for sorting, someone noticed something odd. There, in the box of an old wooden speaker, was a tortoise whom they recognized.
“We were shocked!” Almeida told The Dodo. “My mom arrived crying because she didn’t believe it. They found Manuela!”
Incredibly, the tortoise had somehow managed to survive three decades trapped inside the storage space. She’d subsisted, her family suspects, by eating termite larvae in the overfilled room.
Manuela’s family was thrilled.
She was alive and well — and, sure enough, she still is.
Nearly 10 years after being found, and 40 years after going missing, Manuela has never been better. (Though, since later being identified as a boy tortoise, he now goes by Manuel.)
Almeida has been caring for him ever since.
“Manuel is doing great. He’s grown a lot,” Almeida said. “I brought him in to live with me because I have a lot of affection for him.”
Almeida says that she still gets a lot of questions about Manuel and his discovery after so many years inside the attic, many of which are hard to answer given his mind-blowing ability to survive in those circumstances. But one thing is clear — he never went missing from Almeida’s mom’s heart.
“She visits him weekly, happy to see my daughter with him,” Almeida said. “She feeds him, pets him and kisses him. He’s part of our family. He is one of us.”
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