In the News
After almost three months and a few imposters, the real 7-year-old African Sulcata Tortoise, formerly known as Victoria, is back at the Georgetown County animal sanctuary from which it disappeared.
Two days before Mother's Day, Cindy Hedrick, founder of the nonprofit sanctuary, got an unexpected present when she found her beloved tortoise wandering the front lawn at her home off Choppee Road.
It was the same tortoise that Hedrick had reported missing almost three months earlier.
"It's just amazing," said Hedrick, about the tortoise's return. "It's been a miracle, really."
Hedrick runs the South Carolina Animal Rescue & Educational Sanctuary with her husband. She reported Victoria missing on Feb. 15.
The community and others around the country who heard about Victoria were eager to help and flooded Hedrick with e-mails and phone calls.
The search for the tortoise netted the sanctuary a few look-a-likes, including Victor, who was found wandering in a neighborhood in Charleston. The sanctuary now has six African Sulcata tortoises as a result.
Hedrick said she was able to identify Victoria by a unique crack her shell.
But, the surprises did not end there for Hedrick and her husband, Skip Yeager.
The couple also learned that Victoria actually is a male tortoise.
Shortly after his return, "Vic" tried to mount other tortoises, a male behavior. Hedrick checked beneath the tortoise and noticed Vic was a male.
"We've had him since he was a baby and at the time we thought she was a girl," Hedrick said. "But it's really hard to tell. There's no way to really know for sure."
It also may be the reason Vic was returned, Hedrick said.
"Whoever took him thought it was a female tortoise and took him to breed," she said. "Once they found out she was a boy, they realized they didn't need him anymore. I'm so thankful that whoever this was had the decency to bring him back."
SC-CARES is a facility for abused, neglected and unwanted exotic animals. There are over 100 animals such as foxes, wolves, deer, parrots and snakes on the site, which is a few miles outside of Georgetown.
SC-CARES has a Web site where it includes information about all of its animals, including personal stories about how they were rescued and details about their species.
"Vic" was then believed to be "Victoria" and was listed on the sanctuary's site as such.
In order to help protect its animals, SC-CARES and members of the community teamed up in March to raise funds to build a perimeter fence for the sanctuary.
About $7,000 was donated. With that, and other donated supplies, the sanctuary will be able to build the fence, Hedrick said.