Tony and Missy Lowery’s unusual pet has gone missing. They continue to scour wheat fields and back roads for Leona, their beloved African Sulcata tortoise and they think a passerby may have taken her.
The Lowery family last saw their 19-year-old desert tortoise on Sun. June 24.
“We went inside and went to bed on Sunday night about 9:45 p.m.,” said Mr. Lowery. “We realized on Monday morning that they had gotten out. We’ve looked everyday for Leona and we haven’t had any luck locating her.”
For more than a week they have been unable to locate the missing tortoise and are asking people in the community to help them find her.
The Lowerys have had their tortoises for almost twenty years.
They bought the male, Puck while they were looking for a low maintenance and interesting pet for their children.
“My kids really wanted a dog,” he recalled. “We didn’t think we had enough space for a dog. My daughter decided she wanted a tortoise. It’s a neat pet; they will outlive a dog and possibly outlive a person. They need very little space and they won’t keep you up all night barking.”
Less than a year later they bought “Leon,” who they thought was a male at first, but now believe is a female. “They practice ‘leap frog’ all the time and she’s always on the bottom,” he laughed.
Nineteen years ago, Mr. Lowery was able to hold Puck in the palm of his hand.
“When we got him he was about the size of a hockey puck, so we named him ‘Puck,’ he said.
In more recent years Puck and Leona share more in common with a truck tire. Both tortoises weight near 130lbs. and measure several feet across.
“We think of them as part of the family. After you’ve had them for this long, you’ll grow attached them. They wont do tricks like our dogs will, never-the-less we wouldn’t be complete without them.”
The family has enjoyed the tortoises, which Mr. Lowery said has never bitten anyone and is friendlier than their “spikey” exterior and snappy beaks would lead most people to believe. “Our grandkids ride them; in fact all of the kids really like them. People stop by to see them.”
Their small farmhouse is located only about 2 miles south on the Brenham blacktop road. A busy south county road runs along the three-acre farmstead they have lived in since moving to Kiowa County from Springfield, Mo. Many people travel the road between Greensburg and Haviland to avoid highway traffic.
“[On Sunday night] we heard our dog barking his head off,” he said. “He normally only barks like that if someone stops on that road. Maybe someone saw her and picked her up not knowing. They might have mistaken her for being wild or lost or whatever reason. They might have picked her up with good intentions. If they did we’d sure like to get in contact with them and get her back.”
Page 2 of 2 - The African Sulcata Tortoise is the largest mainland tortoise in the world. They originate from the northern Sahara Desert in Africa and have become popular as pets because of their temperament and long life. They can live up to 150 years.
They eat a special diet and require shade during the hot parts of the day.
“She can get too hot, if she doesn’t have shade she can overheat,” said Lowery.
They also do not swim, a misconception that they are water turtles. “If you’d put them in a tank of water, they’d drown instantly.”
Leona and Puck feed on a steady diet or vegetables from the Lowery garden. Watermelons, cantaloupe, squash, lettuce and apples are their staple diet.
In winter, they need to be heated, as they are primarily a desert tortoise and can not survive cold temperatures.
“She could be in a field,” said Mrs. Lowery. “She could actually survive out there all summer long, until fall comes. When it gets below 50 degrees that will be her last night.”
Neither Puck or Leona have previously escaped for this long. Typically they are found within a single day. Puck was found only a couple of yards from his pen.
“Everyone around here knows that we have them,” said Mr. Lowery. “There are a lot of new people in the county working here on the wind generators and whatnot. Perhaps it was someone like that, who spotted her on the road and was looking out for her best interests by picking her up. Not knowing that she belonged here. When it cools down we’re out walking and riding four-wheelers trying to find her.”
The Lowery family says that their love and affection for Leona will make it hard on them if she is never found, but that it will make it even harder on her best friend.
“You can tell that Puck misses Leona. He hasn’t been coming out of his den as much. Normally he’s out early in the morning and late at night. He’s just been sitting in his den, not getting out very much. I think Puck will be lonely if he doesn’t get his friend back. They’ve lived together their whole life.”
Anyone with information about Leona can contact the Kiowa County Signal at (620) 723-2115