By Gina Martinez
Little Neck’s missing tortoise, Millennium, is back home and receiving a lot of attention from admirers after quite an adventure.
Alley Pond Environmental Center employees arrived at the 111th Precinct in Bayside Tuesday afternoon to identify the tortoise days after he was stolen from his outdoor closure. PETA, the animal rights group, had issued a $5,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of whoever was responsible for kidnapping Millennium.
According to police, Millennium was found in Connecticut after the person who carried him off traded tortoises. Police said the new owner contacted police when he suspected the tortoise might have been stolen. Officers said there have been no arrests and that the investigation was still ongoing.
Staff from APEC came to identify Millennium before taking him back to the center. Venus Hall, an educator at APEC, said they were able to identify him by his facial characteristics and the markings on his shell.
“He’s been with us for 12 years,” she said. “By now, we’re familiar with him.”
Hall said that for now Millennium will stay indoors in the evenings and get exercise during the day outdoors. The Little Neck center at 228-06 Northern Blvd. said it was planning on getting better fencing in the near future and looking into enhancing security.
Millennium, an African Spurred tortoise, is 17 years old, weights 95 pounds and is 2.5 feet long.
On Wednesday, after a full day back at the center, Hall said Millennium was recovering nicely. The tortoise was spending all day outside with his companion, Mini-Me, and getting tons of treats from visitors. Hall said he looks to be in good health and at worst he has probably lost a pound after spending at least two days traveling between states.
Hall said the staff was still surprised about the disappearance.
Police said that sometime between 4 p.m. Sunday, July 16, and the next morning, the tortoise was taken. An employee went in to check on the tortoise and found he was gone. Police said whoever stole Millennium went to the back fence and broke in through a hole.
“What an eye opener,” Hall said. “Something happened we never thought in a million years would, at least to Millennium. We usually think about people pocketing little animals, so now we have to be more aware. The upside is that it has kind of created a nice camaraderie with the community and brought more of a connection with staff and community. It’s been so nice to see how much people care — to see genuine concern for the safety of an animal.”
Now, Hall said, they were waiting to see who was responsible and then they could leave the ordeal behind them.
“We’re not looking to ruin anybody,” she said. “It’s not like a vendetta, but you have to face the consequences. We’re just happy because he’s fine, but at the same time learning as to why and how this happened will help us rethink how we function and care for animals better.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart