5 min read

Huge Tortoise Who Broke His Shell Is So Glad To Be Safe

He ran away from home and ended up in trouble — but he's in the best hands now ❤️

Humpty the tortoise may be nearly 40 years old — but nothing could have prepared him for the trouble he got into last week.

After escaping from his owner’s home in San Diego, California, Humpty was wandering the streets when a dog began chasing him. He got so spooked that he fell onto his back from a 10-foot-high retaining wall, breaking a portion of his shell in the process.

The San Diego County Department of Animal Services responded right away — and it was clear how much pain the tortoise was in.

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Humpty wrapped in bandages after being admitted to the shelter | San Diego County Department of Animal Services

“We’ve seen a lot of tortoises and turtles, but nothing to the size or severity of Humpty’s injuries,” Dan DeSousa, director of the department, told The Dodo. “We had to get his shell back together as soon as possible.”

The team rushed Humpty to a reptile specialist, who began the long surgery to put the pieces back together. While the process to heal a broken shell is lengthy, it can be done with proper casting and care, DeSousa said.

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A vet setting Humpty's shell back into place | San Diego County Department of Animal Services

“Many of the pieces were raised, so they needed to be aligned back together,” DeSousa said. “After that, they used screws and zip ties to hold everything in place for the healing process.”

The surgeons also filled the gaps between the broken fragments with a material similar to what dentures are made from, which will further help his shell heal over the coming weeks and months.

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Humpty having his shell secured with zip ties | San Diego County Department of Animal Services

Being that Humpty was in good health aside from the injury, DeSousa is confident he was someone’s pet. One person reached out to claim him after seeing local news coverage of the rescue, but after learning that the cost of the surgery would be nearly $4,000, they did not follow through. It’s unknown whether this person was actually Humpty’s owner.

Humpty is an African spurred tortoise, or sulcata tortoise, which is the third-largest species of tortoise in the world. They can weigh up to 200 pounds as adults and live more than 70 years.

Unfortunately, they’re a common breed in the exotic pet industry, and are often abandoned once they grow too large for their owners to properly house and care for.

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Humpty resting at the shelter after his surgery | San Diego County Department of Animal Services

While Humpty’s recovery will take a while, he is being continually monitored by his caretakers to ensure he has everything he needs to stay comfortable. For now, he’s resting at the shelter — and when he’s feeling better, will be transferred to a local tortoise rescue. Luckily, he’s doing well so far.

After this ordeal, it’s likely Humpty won’t try hitting the road on his own anytime soon.

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San Diego County Department of Animal Services

“Despite how slow they are, sulcata tortoises are very powerful animals,” DeSousa said. “They can burrow out of a yard or even break boards off a fence if it’s not secure. He’s not out of the woods quite yet, but we expect him to make a full recovery.”

To help more rescued animals like Humpty get the lifesaving care they need, you can make a donation to San Diego County Animal Services Spirit Fund.