Return of lost Okotoks tortoise leaves owner mystified

After nearly a week on the lam, a 50-pound tortoise who went missing near Okotoks last week has been found.

Reptile discovered safe at home, 6 days after vanishing without a trace

Khoopa the tortoise went missing from his home near Okotoks last week. (Southern Alberta Veterinary Emergency)

After nearly a week on the lam, Khoopa, a 50-pound tortoise who went missing near a southern Alberta town last week, has been found.

Khoopa's owner Jody Jordan said a volunteer searcher discovered the 15-year-old African salcata tortoise on Friday, back in the fenced yard which he had disappeared from the week before while Jordan was on vacation. A pet-sitter discovered the animal had somehow vanished from his enclosure.

Jordan said that just like his disappearance, Khoopa's reappearance has left her dumbfounded. 

"We're still a little bit mystified," Jordan told CBC Sunday. More than a dozen people had been searching for the tortoise for nearly six days straight, with no trace of the reptile on her property or in the nearby coulees or in neighbour's yards.

That is until Friday, when one of the volunteers came back to Jordan's house for a glass of water. 

Something caught her eye. 

Suspicious disappearance

"She walked up to the front of the property and she saw some fresh poop there," Jordan said. "Sure enough, there was Khoopa walking his path, the same path he walks every day in the sunshine."

Jordan said she's still trying to piece together where Khoopa could have been, and he's not telling. "There's no tracks of where he came from, just like there's no tracks of where he left," Jordan said, noting it's unusual for a 50-pound animal not to leave at least some evidence of his movements. "He's very distinct, where you can see where he's walked, especially in our grass because it wasn't cut."

While it's possible Khoopa was asleep, burrowed under one of the trees in her yard, Jordan said it's unlikely, considering Khoopa is normally active during the days, and that the property had been thoroughly checked.

Another possibility is that Khoopa could have been taken, then returned in light of the frenzy of media attention around his disappearance.

Mystery remains

"Our only two options are that he slept for six days or that he was taken and brought back," Jordan said, adding Khoopa was unusually hungry after he was found. "For the amount of people that were out there, and the amount of people that were looking for him, there's no way he was cruising around the neighbourhood."

Regardless of his whereabouts, Jordan said she's just glad to have Khoopa back, although in future he'll be kept in an enclosure that's a little less visible to people passing by her property.

While Jordan said she's never had any indication someone might want to steal her pet, baby tortoises can be found for sale on Kijiji for up to $500. They are often surrendered to rescue organizations when people realize how big they can grow.

Jordan adopted Khoopa from a rescue organization about a year-and-a-half ago.