Pet tortoise found alive 30 years after disappearing in family’s cluttered home

The debut Friday of the third season of Amazon’s Emmy-winning series “Transparent” has brought with it an interesting vignette about a pet tortoise named Nacho who, after disappearing and being presumed dead for decades, is found alive in the Pfefferman family home.

That unbelievable storyline is actually based on a true story, series creator Jill Soloway told the Huffington Post.

National Geographic offers more on the story of Manuela, a red-footed tortoise who, in 1982, was the pet of the Almeida family in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. When Manuela vanished, the distraught family assumed she had escaped after workmen at the house left the front door open.

When family patriarch Leonel Almeida died in 2013, family members were clearing out items he had hoarded in a storage shed when son Leandro found a box containing an old record player and records.

A very alive Manuela was also inside. A neighbor was the first to spot her and speak up.

"'You're not throwing out the turtle as well are you?' I looked and saw her," Leandro Almeida told Brazil's Globo TV in a 2013 interview. "At that moment, I turned white, I just couldn't believe what I was seeing."

National Geographic reported that red-footed tortoises are known to go without food for up to three years in the wild, but experts were stumped as to how Manuela was able to survive for 30 years. A Rio-based veterinarian suggested she could have lived off of termites and other small insects, along with condensation when she needed water.

Turtles also have fat reserves that sustain them when food is hard to come by and, like snakes, they are able to lower their body temperature and slow down other physiological processes and enter a state of suspended animation, from which they can recover, National Geographic said.