Family Cleans Their Home and Finds the Pet That Has Been Missing for 30 Years

By: Lauren Wurth | Last updated: Oct 23, 2023

We all know the pain of losing something precious to us, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Other times, it may take hours, days, and even years to find them. That was the situation for this family who rediscovered something they last saw 30 years ago.

But what’s weird about this story isn’t the length of time it took to find it, but the nature of the lost item—their beloved pet. 

The Missing Pet Tortoise

The Almeida family had a pet tortoise that lived with them in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 1982, some construction workers did a renovation job on their home. Unfortunately, they opened the front door and left it ajar for way too long.


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When the family realized that their pet tortoise was missing, they were heartbroken. After searching for her for a long time with no positive news, they had no choice but to give up. 


Everyone Assumed the Tortoise Left the House

The tortoise was a red-footed one named Manuela. After the family’s effort to find her proved futile, they all concluded that she had slipped through the open door and disappeared into the forest nearby.


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They loved Manuela a lot and knew they were going to miss her. But they had no choice but to move on with their lives. 

Lionel's Passing

Lionel Almeida, the family’s patriarch, passed away in January 2013. This was 30 years after Manuela went missing. 


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As somewhat of a hoarder, Lionel had a storage room cluttered with all sorts of things. The Almeida children thought it was a nice idea to clear out the room following their father’s passing. 

A Room Full of Junk

From numerous old records to broken electronics, old furniture, and much more, Lionel’s storage room was jam-packed with clutter. The junk took up too much space in the house, and the Almeida children knew it was time to get rid of it.


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So, off they went to the second floor, where Lionel’s storage room was to begin their self-imposed cleaning task.

The Unexpected Surprise

As the children cleaned, Leandro, Lionel’s son, picked up a box with an old record player. He was heading straight to the dumpster when his neighbor asked him if he would throw the tortoise away, too.

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It was at that point that Leandro realized that he was carrying more than just an old record player in a box.


Manuela Was Home All Along!

Leandro was astonished when he looked closer at the box and saw Manuela poking out of a hole. “I put the box on the pavement for the rubbish men to collect, and a neighbor said, ‘You’re not throwing out the tortoise as well, are you?’ I looked and saw her,” he told Brazil’s Globo TV.


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“At that moment, I turned white; I just couldn’t believe what I saw,” he added.


A Family Reunites

Lionel’s daughter, Lenita Almeida, has been Manuela’s real owner since she was a little girl. Seeing her lovely pet after so many years was a dream come true for her. 

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According to Lenita, “Everything my father thought he could fix, he picked up and brought home. We never dared to go inside that room.” That’s why they were never able to find Manuela all this while.


A New Year's Gift

For the family, finding Manuela was like uncovering an expensive surprise Christmas gift. It was the consolation they never thought they would get after losing their dear father.


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Lenita said the family was thrilled to have Manuela back. Who wouldn’t be? Regaining a family member after losing another is nothing short of a miracle.


Manuela's Unbelievable Resilience

Lenita was also surprised that Manuela survived 30 years without the food, love, care, and attention she needed to thrive. “No one can understand how she managed to survive for 30 years in there; it’s just unbelievable,” she said.  

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The Almeidas believe that Manuela was able to feast on the termites in Lionel’s storage room.


Many People Doubted Their Story

When the story broke out in 2013, many people thought it was made up. They couldn’t believe a tortoise could stay alive outside its natural habitat without food, air, and water for so long.


Source: The Maryland Zoo

However, a veterinary doctor based in Rio de Janeiro, Jeferson Pires, says red-footed tortoises are known to be very resilient. He said that they can survive up to three years without food.


A Happy Ending

Manuela reunited with her family and enjoyed getting acquainted with the newest members. Tortoises are amazing animals with a slow but steady approach to life that humans can learn from.

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Tortoises make very good pets and can be fun to be around. So, if you’ve been contemplating getting one, here’s your cue to do so now.