50-Lb. Tortoise Found Wandering in San Antonio Park After Digging Out of Owners' Backyard

Animal care officers took the tortoise to Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation in San Antonio, where the animal's owners reclaimed the reptile

San Antonio Animal Care Services Tortoise
Tortoise found in San Antonio park. Photo: San Antonio Animal Care Services

Visitors to a San Antonio park came across an unexpected walker: a tortoise weighing at least 50 lbs. wandering along a trail.

According to a Facebook post from the City of San Antonio Animal Care Services (San Antonio ACS), parkgoers found the tortoise on August 7 in Phil Hardberger Park. The people who saw the animal assumed the reptile was a pet since no tortoises native to the area grow to be so large.

The tortoise's rescuers reported the animal to 3-1-1, and animal care officers responded to the call, per San Antonio ACS' Facebook post. Two responding officers had to carry the bulky tortoise from the trail to their vehicle.

Animal care officers took the tortoise to Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation, an animal welfare organization in San Antonio.

In a statement to PEOPLE, Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation confirmed that the tortoise they received was reclaimed by its owner the following day.

The organization added that the tortoise had dug its way out of its backyard, which borders the park. The owners have had the animal for 13 years.

"I am sure he enjoyed his time wandering the wider confines of the park as if he were back in the wild," Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation shared in a written statement. The tortoise arrived at the rescue in "great condition and was clearly well cared for," according to Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation.

"He is one of the more fortunate as these particular animals are all too often bought and sold as 'so-called' pets," the statement continued. "Being wild animals, they are not pets and rarely have a decent life in captivity."

Earlier this summer, PEOPLE spoke to Cindy Iverson, whose 12-year-old tortoise Eliot had broken free from her yard after a storm blew open the gate.

"We panicked," Iverson told PEOPLE. "We looked everywhere. They're so nomadic. They just walk and walk, these tortoises. Once they get out, they can walk miles and miles."

She reached out to her neighborhood email list, which prompted a response from a neighbor who had miraculously gone through a similar experience.

"Immediately, one person replied and said, 'Hey, I lost my turtle a couple years ago, a girl delivering Door Dash saw a tortoise last night, had her dad Google to see if anyone lost a tortoise, and they contacted me,'" Iverson said of what happened next.

The neighbor connected Iverson with the driver that spotted the tortoise. The woman told Iverson that she untangled the 150-lb. African Sulcata tortoise from a drainage ditch while out on delivery, and she would keep her eye open for the reptile.

"The fact that she knew that she saw him and where he was going was hugely helpful," Iverson said. "She was amazing."

The tortoise's mom then posted about the incident on NextDoor and Facebook and received hundreds of responses, she told PEOPLE.

A day after Iverson discovered Elliot had escaped, she reunited with the tortoise after he turned up caught in the fence of a horse farm.

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