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Traveling tortoise finds his way back to his home
Adela Quinones holds the three-year-old tortoise that got loose last week and tied up traffic on Daniels Street. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

Terri Candelaria can stop pulling her “hare” out.

Last week a Good Samaritan returned her beloved three-year-old sulcata tortoise that had crawled through a wrought iron fence and a subsequent wooden fence only to scamper out into traffic on Daniels Street.

The unnamed reptile – which hails from the Sahara desert and is often referred to as the African spurred tortoise – created a temporary period of havoc when motorists on Daniels Street were slowed up by traffic that was stopped to both observe and corral the large land-dwelling species.

It was a story in the Manteca Bulletin that caught the attention of Candelaria’s husband as he passed a newsstand and saw that not only had a large, turtle-like creature gotten loose, but somebody had actually caught it and was trying to search for the owners.

A quick phone call to Brock Elliott Elementary – which used the loudspeaker to inform their students that a tortoise had been picked up and was being held for the owner to claim – ended up putting Candelaria in contact with the Good Samaritan and allowed her to return the male tortoise home to his natural setting.

“They’re really not as slow as you might think. They can travel when they want to,” said Candelaria’s daughter Adela Quinones. “I think people like them because they’re rare, and they’re neat to look at and watch as they move around. You see their personalities come through.

“They’re not the slow-moving creatures that a lot of people expect when they see them. They’re smart and when they want to do something, they’re going to do it.”

And while the size of the tortoise captivated those who saw it maneuvering its way across the blacktop, it’s relatively small compared to the size that it might end up growing to be – and it’s huge compared to what it started off as.

“When my mom first got him, she got two of them and they were about the size of a half-dollar,” Quinones said. “One didn’t make it. We don’t know if it got sick or what the problem was. But the one she does have has grown a lot. And he could end up being 36 inches long and weighing nearly 200 pounds if he lives a full life – making it to 70 years.

“She bought my boys a pair of those same tortoises as well, and they love watching them grow. Hopefully they don’t end up getting out and stopping traffic.”