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Published: Friday, 7/16/2004

Pet tortoise satisfies itch to wander

BY LINDSEY MERGENER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Henry, a tortoise owned by Connie Luderman, far left, enjoyed 43 hours of life on the loose before detention in the barn of Jan Schroeder, far right. A friend, Ron Shultz, looks on. Henry, a tortoise owned by Connie Luderman, far left, enjoyed 43 hours of life on the loose before detention in the barn of Jan Schroeder, far right. A friend, Ron Shultz, looks on.
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If a 30-pound tortoise leaves Waterville Township at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, how long will it take before he arrives in Monclova Township? The answer, the reptile's owner discovered last night, is 43 hours.

Connie Luderman was reunited with her pet, Henry, who escaped through the open gate of his outdoor enclosure at her parents' Black Street home. He was found at a home along Monclova Road in Monclova Township.

If this tortoise crawls as the crow flies, Henry traveled nearly 5 miles. His average speed: a slow but steady 0.1 miles per hour.

Jan Schroeder, 51, said the 6-year-old African sulcata tortoise was walking through her Monclova Road yard at about 3 p.m. yesterday while her husband and son were working outside. Her 25-year-old son, Nick, scooped him up and put him in the family's pole barn.

"He's really friendly," she said. "He's not afraid of people at all."

Mrs. Schroeder called the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife to report the family's find, but because the animal is not native to Ohio, they said they would not deal with it, she said. She then turned to the Toledo Zoo, and was told someone had called Wednesday to describe a missing tortoise fitting the same description. The reunion

was swiftly arranged.

Ms. Luderman, 26, whose fiance had placed the first call to the zoo, was relieved to end a frantic search involving photographs, flyers, and flashlights.

"I was just surprised," she said. "I couldn't believe it. I've been crying."

Before Ms. Luderman arrived to pick up her pet, the Schroeders enjoyed their time with him. Mrs. Schroeder took a picture of Henry by their pond and, remembering how she cared for the box turtle she once owned, fed him lettuce, carrots, and grapes.

"He seemed hungry," she said of her grateful guest. "He chowed it down."

Ms. Luderman said Henry will be grounded for running away. Now that she's got him back, the next thing on her agenda is to get a different type of door for the enclosure he shares with his smaller brother, Humphrey - perhaps a swinging one with a latch.

Many U.S. pet stores sell African sulcata tortoises, which easily reach 80-110 pounds and often weigh more than 120 pounds when they are grown, according to the Phoenix Zoo. The largest on record weighed in at 232 pounds.

Sulcatas require a large area and like to roam, according to Turtles and Tortoises of the World from Facts on File. Native to some of the hottest and driest areas in northern parts of Africa, they are used to heat like that Henry may have faced over the past two days on his road trip in western Lucas County.

Contact Lindsey Mergener at:

lmergener@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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