The thief who stole Arthur the 50-year-old California desert tortoise from The Randall Museum March 10
apparently changed his or her mind. On Saturday left the 12-pound animal was deposited in the museum's lobby when nobody was looking.
"It appeared somebody had a change of heart, or their conscience bugged them, and they decided to give it back," said museum animal caretaker Dom Mosur. "It seemed to magically reappear. Everyone is so excited. There were tears in the eyes of several of our staffers seeing him back. He's been here since 1977, so we were very glad to see him."
Added animal exhibit manager Nancy Ellis, "The Randall Museum is extremely grateful to whomever brought him back.
The Randall Museum, perched on a rocky bluff on the west bank of
Twin Peaks, is a children's center not known for known for its high
security. The day Arthur the tortoise disappeared, staff said a man
wearing a black backpack was seen leaving the museum.
enclosure was surrounded only by a low fence, so "any adult with the
improper mindset and a backpack could pick him up and walk out with
him," Mosur noted.
Museum staffers occasionally field requests
from visitors to borrow, adopt, or "be with them more than is usually
allowed," Mosur said. And one time a child ran off with a mouse, which
drowned when the little one tried to shower with the filched pet.
But during the six weeks of Arthur's absence, museum employees and volunteers actually had no idea what had become of the smooth shelled reptile. He simply disappeared. A reported tortoise sighting in Half Moon Bay led animal exhibit manager Nancy Ellis to race to the coastal town to conduct a search, with no luck.
Then on Saturday the museum's front desk receptionist informed animal caretakers that a parent had discovered Arthur under a bench in the lobby. There's no chance he'd been there all along, Mosur explained, because staff had repeatedly searched the facility during his six-week absence.
While Arthur was gone, the museum received a donation of two younger California desert tortoises. When he got back, he had two roommates. Despite 33 years living alone, Arthur seemed to adapt well. By Wednesday none of the animals had charged each other, or bobbed their heads at each other, as tortoises will do when annoyed.
To protect the new household from out-of-line animal lovers, the museum is extending the width of the fence surrounding their space with Plexiglas sneeze-guard-like barriers, to make it more difficult for patrons to hop over the fence and tortoisenap.