90-Year-Old Tortoise Rescued from a Rubbish Truck, Lives to See Another Day

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Losing a pet can be a traumatic ordeal, especially if you fear that they may have gotten away from your home. But with clear thinking, quick action and help from the community, things can work out. That’s at least how things worked out with Zuma.

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And who is Zuma, exactly? Well, he’s 90 years old, lives in central London, and, apparently, still gets involved in some crazy adventures — even in his old age. Oh, and he’s a tortoise. That’s probably an important detail now that we think of it. His full name is Montezuma, like the Aztec emperor (we know that it’s Zuma for short, but we wonder if he’ll also respond to Monty), and he has had quite a stressful go of things recently.

Here’s a picture of him with his owner, Sarah Joiner and a delicious leafy green lunch.

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Joiner, who is 56 (34 years Zuma’s junior), went out for a swim at the local pool on a Friday, only to find that her beloved tortoise had gone missing when she returned. The tortoise normally hangs out in the terracotta shelter in his owner’s backyard, where he lives, but was nowhere to be found. This, for obvious reasons, sent Joiner into a panic. Still, she was quickly able to get to the bottom of where Zuma must have gone off to. A 90-year-old tortoise can only travel so far, after all.

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The problem, then, lied in the “where” of where the tortoise must have gone. Joiner realized that Zuma must have gotten into her rubbish. As she told BuzzFeed news, “I’d been dead-heading some roses and there was a bag of cuttings that Zuma must have crawled into.” Once she came to this conclusion, the bins had already been collected. Panicked, Joiner called up Westminster city council, asking if they’d help her find Zuma. Officials used GPS to find the truck that was taking Zuma to a waste treatment facility — a destination that would have spelled the end of the very old turtle. Anyone who has seen the end of “Toy Story 3” knows what a trip to the waste treatment facility means.

But before you get teary-eyed recalling the end of that movie (only with a 90-year-old tortoise all alone, which is far more tragic than a bunch of made up toys holding hands and bracing for death), know that traffic saved the day.

According to Joiner, “We were so lucky because if it hadn’t been stuck in traffic, Zuma would have been squashed or incinerated.” Lucky indeed, because that is no way for such a dignified creature to die.

They searched for two and a half hours before they came upon the bag holding Zuma and the flowers Joiner had been trimming. “They lifted up this sack and out came some flowers and then there was the tortoise!” Joiner told BuzzFeed, before going on to say that Zuma “looked quite indignant” when they found him. Of course, we would all be pretty indignant if we lived for 90 years only to get actually thrown out in the garbage and almost sent to an incinerator. Indignant doesn’t even begin to describe the way we’d feel in such a situation.

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Presumably very happy to be alive, Zuma posed with the rubbish workers who saved him from certain death. He apparently went right to sleep upon arriving back at home and spent the following Saturday eating like never before. It’s probably safe to say that Zuma will never venture into a trash bag again.

Joiner, in turn, will always be thankful for the assistance she received in finding her resilient friend. Of the city council and Veolia (the company that manages the waste treatment facility), she said, “They were amazing — everyone worked together with genuine goodwill and they were determined to find him.”

Here’s a great picture of the two, together after the difficult separation.

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Reunited and it feels so good, indeed. Now, here’s to hoping that Zuma lives another 90 years (it’s a longshot but it isn’t outside the realm of possibility), and that other pet owners remember to check the inside of their trash bags before taking them out. You never know what can end up in there.

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