Family searching for runaway tortoise - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Family searching for runaway tortoise

(Source: Michelle Cahal) (Source: Michelle Cahal)

An East Texas family is asking the public and law enforcement to 'be on the lookout' for a lost reptile wearing a very big shell. The Gregg County family had been raising an exotic tortoise for several years, but on Saturday, they noticed it was not in it's enclosure any more.

But where to go looking? This past weekend Michelle Cahal realized their loved pet Cha-Cha was missing.
"At first I thought 'well, I'm just not seeing him.' My stomach dropped and I said 'he's definitely gone,'" she says.
Cha-Cha is a 20-pound African desert tortoise, sometimes called a thigh-spined tortoise. They had raised him for six years.
"He's just part of the family. People think tortoises aren't fast, but if he see's something he wants, he speeds up," Cahal says.
Cha-Cha simply vanished, but a search of his 4-acre enclosure revealed a gap.

"I didn't realize that there was a hole in the fence he could get out. He's been a family pet; he's been here all his life," says Michelle.
She contacted all local law enforcement, even Facebook posts alerting the area, and says Cha-Cha has a distinctive back scale pattern.
"He has some scute’s on the back that were misaligned," Cahal says.

"Most of the time animals are going to stay within a geographical range and we're talking about an animal that a doesn't move very fast, and needs certain resources. It's going to look for food, it's going to look for water," says Longview animal control officer Chris Kemper.

It was two days earlier that Michelle had received a message on Facebook from someone saying they had seen a tortoise walking east bound on Highway 80 near Lake Divernia, that fit the description of Cha-Cha.

Unlikely though, according to wildlife experts.

"Most of the time when people lose exotic pets like this, they're very close to where they escaped from. Humans represent more danger to them than most other things," Kemper says.

Michelle has taken a fair amount of ribbing over her lost reptile.  

"I've already seen those comments, that's fine," she says.

Michelle hopes someone does spot Cha-Cha.

"I'd be happy to come pick him up," she says.

Kemper says if any one sees Cha-Cha, or picks him up, to notify them at animal control, or any local law enforcement agency, so that they can return him to his owners.
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