Years ago a friend of mine found a large turtle walking up her driveway. My friend was not a turtle person so she called me and asked what to do.
I advised her to put it in a secure place and I would come out and ID it for her. It was a very large adult sulcata tortoise.
We took pictures and began to look for an owner while the tortoise was kept in a temporary pen.
I posted "Found Tortoise" notices in the area.
After a couple of weeks there was no response to the missing tortoise posters. I contacted a turtle rescue group to get the sulcata placed in a suitable home.
Week three later, after the sulcata was placed in a new home, a call was made from a person claiming the tortoise was his.
The guy said the tortoise pushed under his chain link fence.
I asked him to describe the sulcata: coloring, size, unique markings, sex.
Answer: big, brown spur thigh tortoise. He thought it was a a boy (right). He could not describe any unique features.
Just to be sure, I asked him to produce any photos of the tortoise as proof. He said he had no photos of his sulcata. I said I did not believe him to be the owner. He was pissed and hung up on me.
This guy who claimed to have owed this suclata for over ten years (saying he kept the giant it in a chain link fence) yet never took one single photo of his sulcata, wasn't sure if it was male or female, could not remember the significant damage to a part of the shell, did not recall that it had a very unique color variation (I called the sulcata Goldie), or mentioned that this particular sulcata had a particular behavior that I would say is very endearing.
I never heard from the guy after that phone conversation.
I believe he was not the owner. Why? He couldn't describe the sulcata very well. He did not have one single photo of his dear tortoise (nearly unbelievable!). But what really struck me about this guy is he did not fight me to get the sulcata back.
I would have put up a major fight if that had been Frankie. I would have moved the Chahaba River and dug a canal to the Gulf with my bear hands to get Frankie back.
Even after all these years I've kept my ears open for anyone who talks about missing a very unique sulcata.
Goldie now lives in a new home in Alabama.
It's a good lesson for us. Owners can prove ownership one way or the other but most of all it's true that an owner will fight for their baby.