After slow-speed escape in August, Major Tom the tortoise safely back with Metairie owner

Major Tom, a 100-pound sulcata tortoise, has been returned safely to his owner in Metairie...
Major Tom, a 100-pound sulcata tortoise, has been returned safely to his owner in Metairie following his slow-speed escape from their backyard in August.(Humane Society of Louisiana)
Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 8:22 AM CDT
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METAIRIE, La. (WVUE) - When Metairie turtle owner and David Bowie fan Tricia LeBlanc looked in her backyard two months ago, she probably couldn’t help but think, “What the shell?”

Major Tom, her 100-pound sulcata tortoise, was missing from its enclosure.

It turns out the tortoise had pulled off what could only be described as a slow-speed escape, having pushed open his pen’s front gate, then going on the “run.” LeBlanc searched the neighborhood to no avail, and her social media posts about the missing pet initially came up empty.

But unlike the titular astronaut lost forever in Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” this Major Tom has returned home. The Humane Society of Louisiana on Monday (Oct. 11) is honoring the retired couple who found and cared for Major Tom since August, and paying Reno and Antoinette Duret the $500 reward that had been offered for the tortoise’s safe return.

“We are delighted and ecstatic that Tom has been found and reunited with his human mother, Ms. LeBlanc,” said HSLA director Jeff Dorson. “We know what it’s like to miss a pet, so it’s always wonderful when they can be returned.”

Sulcata tortoises such as Major Tom, also known as African spurred tortoises, are native to the southern edge of the Sahara desert and are considered the third-largest tortoise species in the world. With a lifespan of about 80 years, Major Tom (estimated to be 30-40 years old) perhaps lumbered away as part of some reptilian midlife crisis.

The Durets came into possession of Major Tom after a lawn maintenance worker mentioned seeing the slow-moving escapee walking down a sidewalk. The worker knew that the Durets used to own a tortoise of their own. Reno Duret went to see the creature and decided to bring him home so that he wouldn’t be injured or struck by a vehicle while on the lam.

Major Tom lived with the Durets, wandering between their backyard and garage, for nearly two months. Meanwhile, the Durets and LeBlanc never connected with their social media posts about the missing/found tortoise. Finally, a friend of Antoinette Duret directed her to a post on a “Lost Pets of Kenner and Metairie” page that led the turtle lovers to connect. They arranged for Major Tom’s return last week, and the Humane Society brought them together Monday for a final reunion and reward payment.

The Humane Society estimates that at least six Metairie households have tortoises among their pets.

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