A couple were shell-shocked when their tortoise turned up three feet beneath their garden – nearly a month after going missing.
Matt Gilbert and his partner Lindsay Ward searched everywhere for their pet Herman when he vanished from their home last month.
So when they heard scratching coming from a drain pipe, they were stunned to find the reptile hidden inside.
With the help of the RSPCA, Matt dug a trench in order to rescue Herman – who was unharmed after 28 days underground.
Lindsay said: “We just thought he’d somehow got out and we resigned ourselves to thinking we would never see him again.
“The strange thing is that during the last four weeks I have been sitting in my garden loads, we’ve had barbecues and have always been out there, but never heard a thing.
“Then I heard this scratching noise, and knowing it was a sound tortoises make I just knew it was him.
“I called Matt and he rushed home, and then he just started digging, and digging and digging!
“I am just so curious as to what on earth Herman has been up to for the last 28 days – what a tortoise he is, a definite survivor!”
Two-year-old Herman vanished from the couple’s garden in Cambridge on April 6.
Matt and Lindsay searched everywhere for him, contacted neighbours and posted his details on local Facebook pages, but to no avail.
They have no idea how he got so far down the pipe, or how he survived for so long.
Matt said: “It’s still an absolute mystery as to what on earth happened, as he was facing towards the exit when we saw him but he was stuck on a ledge bend and couldn’t get over it, but there’s no way he could have turned round in that pipe, so had he fallen down bottom first?
“Who knows. I am just so glad that he is out and that we managed to get him, as we have no idea how long that pipe was, or indeed where it would have ended up.
“It was certainly hard work trying to dig to get to Herman. The thing was, this wasn’t soil, it was hardcore, so exceptionally hard work.
“My heart sank when I had already dug up three metres of pipe and he still wasn’t in there, but we just kept hearing him, so I knew I just had to keep digging!”
Herman is now living in a secure pen in the couple’s garden to stop him escaping again.
RSPCA Inspector Lythgoe added: “Being an RSPCA inspector I am always called out to some strange animal rescues, usually cats stuck up trees, or deer stuck in fencing.
“I can safely say this is the first time I have been called to rescue a tortoise from a drain pipe.
“Fair play to Matt for all the digging he had done before I arrived, because it was a lot of hard work. I am just so glad that we managed to get Herman out unscathed.
“This is definitely one of those rescues I won’t forget in a hurry!”
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