Missing Tortoise Was Not Stolen

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By Adam Carros

DUBUQUE, Iowa -- A missing tortoise at a Dubuque aquarium apparently wasn't stolen, but an employee helped carry on that misconception.

Officials at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium now say the 18-pound African leopard tortoise, named Cashew, had crawled behind what was thought to be an impenetrable wall and got stuck.

An employee found Cashew Thursday, but rather than report the find, the employee placed the tortoise on an elevator where visitors later found it. The museum says the employee was "trying to protect the museum and aquarium from looking foolish" and panicked.

"The action taken by the employee Thursday afternoon was wrong,” said museum President Jerry Enzler.

Enzler declined to name the employee of if any disciplinary action would be taken.

The museum first reported Cashew as missing on Tuesday, claiming someone had stolen the tortoise from its enclosure. The museum says it now knows that was not true.

“The Museum & Aquarium is now reviewing all its enclosures and its procedures to continue to provide the highest possible level of animal care,” said John Sutter, Director of Marketing & Sales.

Veterinarians checked out Cashew and say the tortoise is in good health. Cashew should be back on display at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium soon.

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