Family seeks help in finding runaway African turtles

Published 12:57 pm Thursday, August 14, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Two very expensive and exotic African red turtles have been missing from Nichole and Cameron Sly's aquarium since Tuesday around noon.
Cameron and Nichole, who currently live on Thomas Street in Niles with their parents, are now offering a $50 reward for each turtle found and returned.
The turtles went missing after Cameron, who owns the turtles with his sister, Nichole, took them out for a walk in the family's garden on Tuesday afternoon.
Nichole said the turtles are about the size of a softball, light brown with a hard shell.
Apparently they like to wander around in gardens and bushes and they eat tomatoes and fruit.
The siblings encourage people who live in their area and the area around Pete's Patio on Fifth Street to keep and eye out for the missing turtles.
Having for a brief moment forgotten about them, Cameron said he discovered the turtles were missing from the garden around 1 p.m. on Tuesday.
Judy Holmes, Cameron and Nichole's grandmother, said it's crucial for the turtles' survival that they are found quickly because they aren't conditioned to living in this type of outdoor environment.
Holmes said the turtles are likely to get sick because they won't be used to the vegetation they are likely to eat while wandering around.
Chances are they will come down with diarrhea, she said.
The turtles, whose scientific name is Sulcata, originate from the southern Sahara desert region in Africa.
When fully grown, they are the largest mainland tortoise species in the world and can become 100 to 150 years old.
They are reported to grow over two hundred pounds in weight and thirty six inches in length.
Nichole and Cameron have become very attached to the turtles, whose names are Maria and Jose.
Before they bought the turtles in September last year, they did four months of researching, finding out as much as they they could about the turtles.
It took them three months to properly set up the aquarium in which the turtles have since been living.
Cameron said he and his sister spend at least an hour each day caring for the turtles and feeding them.
Grandmother Holmes said it's hard for the children who are now without their pets.
Holmes said anyone finding the turtles can 683-9912 and someone will come and pick up the turtles immediately.
Holmes encourages people in the neighborhood to be on the lookout for the missing pets.