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The Great Escape: Lottie the runaway tortoise is found a mile-and-a-half from home (but it took her two years to get there)

Maybe she was born to be wild.

Just two days after Lottie the tortoise moved to live with her new owners in a suburban family home, she disappeared and set off on an incredible journey.

The enterprising reptile escaped out of the back garden, into the adjoining school playing fields and the big wide world beyond.

Schoolgirl Maddie Tibble was naturally very upset when she discovered her tortoise, given as a ninth birthday present, had gone and eventually accepted she would never see the little creature again.

But amazingly, almost two years later, Lottie was found plodding down a road on the far side of the playing fields.

True to the reputation of these most sluggish of creatures, the tortoise had travelled just one-and-a-half miles in all that time.

Yet despite fending for herself and having to endure one of the hardest winters in decades, she survived in fine health.

Lottie was handed in to the local vets in Grays, Essex, who was able to return the pet to her astonished owner because she had been fitted with a microchip.

‘I just didn’t believe it was her,’ said Maddie, 10. ‘I was really shocked I just thought it must be another tortoise, but I am so pleased to have her back.’

Her mother Beth Tibble, 44, was equally taken aback by the discovery. The tortoise vanished in August 2008 and has just been found.

She said: ‘We are so pleased to have Lottie back and in good health. We live on the back of William Edwards School playing fields and all I can think is that she has been plodding around there for this whole time.

‘Maddie was so upset. We did get a new tortoise but we gave it away because it was just not the same.’

Lottie the tortoise was found plodding down a road on the far side  of playing fields adjoining the Tibble's back garden Lottie the tortoise was found plodding down a road on the far side of playing fields adjoining the Tibble’s back garden

Doubtless a hare could have made the journey across the fields and down nearby Blackshots Lane in a matter of minutes.

But Lottie took her time and spent 22 months to emerge into the open and be spotted by a animal-friendly passer-by.

Vet Lizzie Rigby, 36, checked Lottie over and gave her a clean bill of health. She said: ‘We looked her over and then checked for a microchip with a scanner and she had one.

‘We then contacted the chip company to get the owner’s detailed and found she had been missing for two years. We were amazed, considering she was in such good nick.’

Miss Rigby added: ‘Tortoises are quite slow, she didn’t get very far, who knows where she has been?

‘She must have found somewhere to curl up and hibernate for the winter. We were very surprised because the last winter was so cold but she survived.’

Angela Wilkinson from the British Tortoise Society said: ‘It’s incredible, absolutely incredible that this tortoise has been found after two years.

‘I once lost mine in the winter and it was found the next summer in the next garden, but this is amazing.

‘She was probably in the fields eating dandelions and clover leaves and survived that way.

‘It must have hibernated and dug down underground for the winter, that’s what they would do naturally. They then come out again in the spring. ‘

Lottie is a seven-year-old Hermann’s tortoise, which originate from southern Europe.

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