“We were shocked!”
Nathalye De Almeida grew up hearing stories from her mother about Manuela, a cherished pet turtle she had as a child in the early 1980s. The stories, on the other hand, were invariably tinged with sadness.
That’s because Manuela went missing in 1982, when Almeida’s mother was just 8 years old.
Manuela’s family assumed at the time that the tortoise had strayed away from home, never to be seen again — but they couldn’t have been more incorrect.
Fast forward. Thirty years later, in 2013, Almeida’s grandfather had died recently, and her family had gathered in her mother’s childhood house to look through his belongings.
Almeida’s grandfather had left behind a highly cluttered attic, and as the space was tidied and his belongings were brought out for sorting, something strange was uncovered. They identified the tortoise in the box of an antique wooden speaker.
“We were astounded!” Almeida informed us. “My mother came in crying because she couldn’t believe it. “They discovered Manuela!”
The tortoise had somehow survived three decades locked within the storage area. Her family believes she survived by eating termite larvae in the overcrowded room.
Manuela’s family was ecstatic.
She was alive and well — and she is still alive and well.
Manuela has never been better, nearly ten years after she was discovered and 40 years after she went missing. (However, after being identified as a boy tortoise, he now goes by the name Manuel.)
Since then, Almeida has been looking after him.
“Manuel is doing fantastic. “He’s matured a lot,” Almeida added. “I brought him in to live with me because I care deeply about him.”
Almeida says she still gets a lot of questions about Manuel and his finding after spending so many years in the attic, many of which are difficult to answer considering his incredible ability to survive in those conditions. But one thing is certain: he never left Almeida’s mother’s heart.
“She visits him once a week, and it makes me glad to watch my daughter with him,” Almeida added. “She feeds, pets, and kisses him.” He’s a member of our family. He belongs to us.”