Once upon a time, the tortoise Manuela lived a happy life with the Almeidas, a Brazilian family who lives west of Rio de Janeiro. That was 30 years ago, before the day she got lost, seemingly forever.
Gone were the days of fresh leaves in the Almeida's garden. Gone were her long strolls across the wet and cool green grass. That fateful day, Manuela got condemned to three decades of solitude in a dark dusty place full of crap.
That day, back in the early 80s, workers were renovating the family's home. That was when Manuela disappeared. The Almeida kids and their parents thought the tortoise had left the building: "I thought she had fled because the mason who did the work of the house leaving the gate open," said Sueli de Almeida. But soon, they forgot about the tortoise.
In reality, much like Elvis, Manuela really never left. She got trapped into the storage room where Leonel Almeida — the family patriarch — stored all kinds of broken objects and mucky electronics. It was in one of the boxes containing an old record player from the 70s, where she lived alone for the last three decades.
Fast forward to right now, 30 years after that renovation. Sueli's father died at the beginning of 2013, so it was time to clean the room where Leonel had been storing all this filthy stuff for all these years:
According to Sueli, the dad was obsessed about collecting crap that he thought may be used in the future: "he picked from the street everything he thought he could. If he saw an old television, he would get it, thinking that he could use some part to fix another gadget in the future. That's how he kept accumulating things."
But, in all this time of collecting electronic trash, he never noticed the poor trapped tortoise. Only when they cleaned the room and they were putting all this garbage outside, someone noticed it. It was a neighbour who told them, said Leandro de Almeida, Leonel's son: "I put the bag of trash on the floor and the neighbour asked me if I was going to throw the turtle away too. I couldn't believe my eyes."
The family was thrilled. The tortoise, probably not so much. You know, she has that tardcat look. But then again, all turtles have a tardcat look. The Brazilian news channel Globo 1 talked with veterinary professor Jeferson Pires, who said that turtles are very resilient: "despite adverse conditions they can live long without eating much."