01:52 GMT +312 December 2018
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    The tortoise and the hare

    Turtally Amazing: Runaway Tortoise Becomes 'Shellebrity' in Sweden

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    Isedor the tortoise is by far Sweden's most well-known reptile. Isedor rose to national fame after making a sensational flight from his family after 60-odd years and four generations. Four years and two lawsuits later, his owners are still fighting for custody over the fugitive.

    In 2013, Isedor the tortoise, 'bolted' from the farm owned by the Berghoffs outside the Swedish town of Vimmerby. The 68-year-old Moroccan tortoise was the family's prized possession for decades.

    "My husband grew up with the tortoise, which is 10 years older than him. His grandmother got the tortoise from a French soldier with Moroccan roots. She was kind to the soldiers and helped them, so she received this turtle as a present. Since then, [Isedor] has been part of our family," tortoise owner Karin Berghoff told Swedish national broadcaster SVT.

    The family searched the vicinity for the tortoise for months and even put out ads with the local newspaper, but never found him. After over a year of fruitless searches, they ended up believing that Isedor had perished. However, Isedor was found in the spring of 2015 in the nearby woods by a hunter, having miraculously survived two notoriously harsh Nordic winters, which might be an inimitable feat for a heat-loving reptile.

    However, what could have been a film-like happy ending to crown this implausible story instead became a start of a protracted custody battle. Oblivious to the Berghoffs' search, the hunter handed the fugitive over to county authorities. Since Isedor's flight was never reported to the police and the tortoise itself lacked any way to identify itself, it was given away to a new owner, a women linked to the animal hospital in the city of Kalmar, which served as a refuge for the escapee.

    When the news of Isedor's survival reached the Berghoffs, they rushed to the new owner, only to be shocked by yet another piece of devastating news. It turned out that the woman had already sold Isedor, which she was perfectly authorized to as the new owner. A tortoise specimen of Isedor's rage and age may fetch up to 5,000 SEK ($560) to a collector, the Berghoffs admitted.

    However, the couple refused to give up hope of getting their cherished family member back and after two lawsuits finally managed to prove their ownership of Isedor. Although the Berghoffs successfully defended their cause, county authorities in Kalmar are still reluctant to take any action to correct its fault.

    "Given existing circumstances, we ruled that the animal was to be transferred. With that, the case is finished with us," county attorney Anna Mäki told SVT.

    However, the correctness of their case did not bring their pet back. The Berghoffs are ready to try their luck with a new ad promising a 50,000 SEK ($5,600) reward for those who return Isedor.

    "For us, it would be a sign that there is a higher power, and that life can be fair. We hope that the new owner will read the new ad and have the heart and the compassion to get in touch with us," Karin Berghoff said.

    The Moroccan tortoise, which is also known as a spur-thighed, Greek or Moorish tortoise, leads a very long life, achieving a lifespan of upwards of 125 years, with some unverified reports of up to 200 years.

     

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