Tortoise missing from county fair requires special diet

By: 
Roxie Murphy
Staff Writer

An African Sulcata Tortoise was reported missing Thursday night by the petting zoo present at the 72nd annual Gasconade County Fair.

A Zoo For You petting zoo was present at the fair and featured various animals such as chickens, rabbits, kittens, llamas, donkeys, ponies, piglets and lambs to name a few. It also included sister African Sulcata Tortoises. 

Dave Gibson, director of operations for A Zoo For You, said one of the sisters was reported missing Thursday night between 8:45 and 9 p.m., when a large amount of people entered the fenced-in area.

“Someone came over and chatted with employees and said ‘hey, weren’t there two tortoises over there?’ The employees said yes, but there was only one.”   

That someone was Janelle Rasmussen from Owensville.

Rasmussen said they were at the petting zoo right at dark when, “A kid ran straight into the black cage and knocked the cage down.”

Rasmussen said they had only been there for about 15 minutes when the incident occurred.

“An adult (female) came over and grabbed him under the arm and left really quick,” Rasmussen said, adding that she didn’t see the little boy, who was maybe six, with a turtle. “It was weird, her reaction.”

Rasmussen said she put the cage back upright, and one of her kids said there should be two turtles. She asked the zoo keeper if there were two turtles in the cage, and the keeper said yes. Rasmussen said there was only one remaining when she set the cage back up.

“Then the lady got a flashlight to find the turtle and the miniature horse was loose,” Rasmussen said. “Maybe it was a diversion.”

People located near the zoo told The Republican on Friday that a man and a young boy were seen walking toward the west gate shortly after the commotion described by Rasmussen. They thought man was carrying something, they reported.

Gibson said they reported the missing 10-pound tortoise, which is considered a baby, to both the fair board and police.

“We put a post on Facebook and someone said some people were holding that tortoise,” Gibson said. “The next day a little boy was helping and told my daughter that some people just walked by and said they couldn’t believe they stole a tortoise from the petting zoo.”

Gibson said if the takers wanted to turn the tortoise in they would welcome her back and are not interested in pressing charges.

“I don’t know how this works, but if they wanted to drop her by the police department or the fire house or with us,” Gibson suggested. “They could say they saw her on the side of the road and thought maybe she is ours.”

He posted on Facebook that if those who have her wanted to keep here, they need to take proper care of her, adding that they don’t eat lettuce.

“She needs tortoise reptile food, Mizuri. Tortoises grow faster and if they don’t get the right nutrients, their shells will crack and it can cause harm,” Gibson said.

Gibson said what lesson they took from that was they needed to bring larger animals and brought the adult 70 pound to 100 pound tortoises for the remainder of the fair.

A Zoo For You exposes their animals to people early on in their life so there isn’t a lot of reaction to big crowds. Gibson said that is why animals they adopt out are so loving. He adds that many places they go in the cities, like St. Louis, some kids have never seen a chicken, much less a 100 pound tortoise.

“It is one less animal little kids could play with,” Gibson said.

If anyone would like to report on the where-a-bouts of sister tortoise, they can call Gibson at 314-325-9715 or send a message to A Zoo For You on Facebook.

Vandalism reported on closing night

Owensville police also took reports late Saturday night of vandalism at Memorial Park near the end of the Gasconade County Fair of at least six pickup trucks which were damaged with either gold spray paint or from being keyed including one belonging to Rick Schneider, of Hermann.

Lt. Scott Griffith said more vehicles may be counted as people file reports. “There were at least six reports that night. There could be more,” said Griffith.

The sheriff’s department reported one incident where an Owensville man was tazered following a late-night altercation Friday in the lower beer garden. No arrests were reported. Fair coverage continues on pages 7 and 19 through 22.

Category: