Manuela the tortoise has been found alive – after more than 30 years locked in a storeroom.
She was finally spotted after being put out for the binmen in a box of rubbish.
And last night she was reunited with her amazed owners as they described her survival as “incredible”.
Manuela vanished from her home in Rio de Janeiro in 1982 and was given up as lost forever despite a lengthy search.
Her owners assumed she had crawled away after builders working on the house left the front door open.
It was only after dad Leonel Almieda died earlier this month that his children began clearing out a second-floor room he had filled with broken electrical items and always kept locked.
Son Leandro was astonished to find Manuela shuffling around in a cardboard box containing an old record player.
He told Brazil’s Globo G1 website: “I put the box on the pavement for the binmen to collect, and a neighbour said, ‘You’re not throwing the tortoise out as well are you?’ I looked and saw Manuela.
“And at that moment I turned white. I just could not believe what I was seeing.”
His sister Lenita, who had been given the tortoise as a childhood pet, said: “Everything my father thought he could fix, he picked up and brought home.
“If he found an old television he thought he might be able to use a part of it to fix another one in the future, so he just kept accumulating things.
“We never dared go inside that room.
“We are all thrilled to have Manuela back. But none of us can understand how she managed to survive for 30 years in there – it’s just unbelievable.”
Local vet Jeferson Pires explained that Manuela is a red-footed tortoise, a species that can go for up to three years without eating.
He said she may have survived by nibbling termites from the wooden floor and licking condensation off smooth surfaces.
He added: “They are particularly resilient creatures.”