DUBUQUE, Iowa -- An African leopard tortoise thought to be stolen from an Iowa museum was actually trapped behind panelling in her enclosure, and a misguided employee who found her lied to keep up the story about her theft, the museum announced Friday.
In a bizarre move, the employee who found the 8.1-kilogram reptile named Cashew put her into a building elevator in an attempt to prevent the museum further embarrassment, said Jerry Enzler, president and CEO of the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque.
The tortoise was found alone in a museum elevator on Thursday, two days after the museum had discovered she was missing and announced she had been stolen. Museum officials told media outlets Thursday they believed a regretful thief had smuggled her back inside.
But several hours later, a museum employee came forward and told the truth: Cashew was never stolen.
"The action taken by the employee Thursday afternoon was wrong and is not reflective of the integrity of the staff who dedicate themselves to the highest of Museum & Aquarium standards," Enzler said in a statement Friday.
Enzler said the employee will be reprimanded.
Cashew is one of six large tortoises on display in the enclosure. A 1.2-metre wall separates visitors from the creatures.
The nine-year-old tortoise will be back on display today.
-- The Associated Press