Family still hopeful of finding missing tortoise

Magellan the tortoise remains at large.

The animal has been missing since the afternoon of Oct. 3, owner Ava Pope wrote in an email: “He was last seen grazing in our field 50 yards from our house along Zells Mill Road in Newport.”

The family is offering a $500 reward for his safe return.

Area residents might have seen news reports on television about the missing reptile, but his owners recently contacted the newspaper in hopes of encouraging the community to continue keeping an eye out for him.

“We have spent more than 80 man hours searching for him (and a few dog hours too) so far and are still searching,” Pope wrote.

Magellan is an African Sulcata tortoise that has lived in Southwest Virginia his entire 22-year life; he has lived with Pope’s family since August. No one will mistake him for a native turtle: Magellan weighs 82 pounds and is 30 inches long.

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Pope says she expects the tortoise is probably within three miles of her house, and described some things to be aware of in tracking Magellan down: “He enjoys sunny spaces to bask and eat grass when the sun is out, and may hunker down in bushes or shrubs, under rock overhangs, sheds, etc. for shelter as the sun sets. These tortoises cannot swim so he is unlikely to be in a creek or pond.”

If anyone has already spotted Magellan and picked him up, Pope says the family will welcome his safe return, no questions asked. And the reward will be offered.

Pope writes that she is far from giving up: “These creatures are tough, and though colder weather is not good for their health there are many stories of these guys being found happily alive days to months after they were lost (even in winter climates), so we still have high hopes for locating him.”

If you have information about Magellan, please contact Ava Pope by phone at 540-626-3386 or text to 512-557-1964.

– Christina Koomen