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US Where is Mr. Mabel? Texas family searching desperately for 90-pound pet tortoise

23:50  16 october  2019
23:50  16 october  2019 Source:   timesrecordnews.com

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Mr. Mabel the 90-pound tortoise is plodding away somewhere out there while his family frantically searches for the beloved pet.

a turtle lying in the grass: Mr. Mabel© Courtesy/Kevin Goulart Mr. Mabel

The African sulcata tortoise escaped from his enclosure around noon Oct. 9 at Kevin and Amy Goulart's North Texas home in Dean, and they are desperate to find the tortoise they raised from a week-old hatchling to a 10-year-old gentle giant who likes to play, Kevin said.

"We’re hoping if the weather stays decent enough long enough that he’ll be able to survive," Kevin said Tuesday.

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The Goularts have notified game wardens and law-enforcement agencies, distributing flyers picturing Mr. Mabel around North Texas and Southern Oklahoma.

His shell is about 24 inches across, and he easily measures a good 8 to 10 inches off the ground, Kevin said.

The great escape

“A lot of people are like, how do you let a tortoise escape?" he said. "They’re like bulldozers.”

Mr. Mabel found a weak spot in his enclosure, which has shelter, heat, food and water, and slipped right through it, Kevin said. Amy had given him water and came back an hour later to find him gone.

Sightings have been reported, including northwest of Dean, in the Kamay area and halfway between Electra and Vernon along U.S. Highway 287.

“He may be looking for a mate or something like that," Kevin said. "I don’t really know. In the wild, they range hundreds of miles.”

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A big tortoise turned up in Oklahoma City and another in Dallas, but Kevin could tell from looking at pictures that they weren't Mr. Mabel.

What to do if you find Mr. Mabel

If anyone finds the tortoise, contain him temporarily in a shed or fenced area and call Kevin at (940) 215-4893, he said. But don't flip Mr. Mabel onto his back because he could suffocate.

A gentle manner is best when approaching Mr. Mabel.

Just say, "Hey, buddy," and let him sniff your hand or shoe, Kevin said. Mr. Mabel will startled at abrupt movements.

Sulcata tortoises are known to bond with their owners and have plenty of personality.

“He’s friendly," Kevin said. "They know you, and they know your voice. They’ll come up to you and let you scratch their head."

They also like bright colors, he said.

a turtle in the grass: Mr Mabel© Courtesy/Kevin Goulart Mr Mabel

"They’re very smart, and they're super strong," Kevin said. "Their sense of hearing and sight is amazing. They can hear you walking from 100 feet.”

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The Marvelous Mr. Mabel

Tortoises like Mr. Mabel can outlive their owners and become a legacy pet for their children, Kevin said.

“He’s been around longer than our kids," Kevin said. "We have a 7-year-old boy, and my daughter, she’s 15 months.”

Kevin isn't worried about the vegetarian tortoise finding something to eat -- although he won't be getting the treats he does at home.

“I would say 80 plus percent of his diet is grass, so he could survive on what’s out there," he said.

The sulcata tortoise -- also called the African spurred tortoise -- is the biggest mainland tortoise and can reach well over 100 pounds, according to the San Diego Zoo. This tortoise is able to survive weeks without food and water, but it can gulp up to 15 percent of its body weight when it does find water.

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Kevin said Mr. Mabel can't swim but might go to water for a drink or a soak.

a dog sitting on top of a grass covered field: Mr. Mabel hangs out with another family pet, Capone.© Courtesy/Kevin Goulart Mr. Mabel hangs out with another family pet, Capone.

Mr. Mabel's shell affords him a certain amount of protection. But Kevin is worried about coyotes, bobcats and other predators, and his pet can't right himself if he becomes flipped upside down.

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The tortoise started out named "Mabel," Kevin said.

"Usually the two-to-four year mark is when you know if they’re male or female," he said.

Even after it became apparent that Mabel was a mister, the name just stuck, Kevin said. They knew Mr. Mabel was going to get huge when they got him.

“We planned on keeping him in Arizona because it’s a lot easier to keep him in a desert environment," Kevin said. "When we made our move here to North Texas, he came with us after some debate.”

They moved to Dean in 2017. The tiny town, population 480, is situated approximately 10 miles northeast of Wichita Falls.

In the hunt for Mr. Mabel, Amy and Kevin have probably searched 2,000 acres and 100 miles of roads in the Dean area, Kevin said.

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The community has responded on social media and in real life as the Goularts found out when they drove to nearby Henrietta to get the word out.

“We went there to put up flyers, but somebody had already done it," Kevin said.

a turtle lying in the dirt: Mr Mabel© Courtesy/Kevin Goulart Mr Mabel

Trish Choate, enterprise watchdog reporter for the Times Record News, covers education, courts, breaking news, politics and more. She loves getting news tips. If you have a good one, contact Trish at [email protected] Her Twitter handle is @Trishapedia.

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This article originally appeared on Wichita Falls Times Record News: Where is Mr. Mabel? Texas family searching desperately for 90-pound pet tortoise

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