ALVIN, Texas — Sheldon the tortoise was returned to the Bayou Wildlife Zoo in Alvin overnight.
The 6-year-old leopard tortoise seems to be fine, zoo owner Dana King said.
“We are thankful he is unharmed and back where he belongs,” King said.
She said a maintenance crew found him in a box outside the zoo Tuesday morning.
Sheldon was stolen Sunday, minutes after he and another rescued tortoise were dropped off at the zoo.
King said Monday the three thieves were caught on camera and they knew their identity and had their license plate number.
She pleaded with the thieves to return the tortoise and said they wouldn’t press charges if Sheldon was returned by Monday morning.
When that didn't happen, the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office was notified.
According to this reptile website, regular leopard turtles, like Sheldon, can sell for hundreds of dollars and giant ones can go for thousands.
King and her parents bought the iconic 80-acre zoo in March, right before the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to close for a couple of months.
The open-range zoo is home to hundreds of animals, including giraffes, zebras, kangaroos and camels.
Former owner Clint Wolston put his menagerie on the market in 2016 because he was ready to retire. It took more than three years to find a buyer.
Wolford, 83, opened the drive-through zoo in 1986.