Shell of an escape: Zuma the tortoise rescued from rubbish truck

Mon, 08/08/2016

Westminster refuse staff leapt into action after a London resident called to say her tortoise Zuma had disappeared after getting into a bag of waste.

Sarah Joiner, who has lived in Westminster all her life, called City inspectors at Westminster City Council asking for help to rescue her 90-year-old tortoise. Sarah, who’s 56 and has Multiple Sclerosis, has owned Zuma for 4 decades.

Using GPS satellite tracking, Westminster City Council staff managed to find the refuse lorry as it made its way with the getaway tortoise to a Veolia operated waste treatment facility where black bag waste is processed.

Luckily for Zuma the collection vehicle, carrying 10 tonnes of waste, was still on its round and had not yet tipped its waste into the massive storage bunker which processes 1000s of tonnes of waste. Sarah arrived at the centre and was given a safety brief before putting on protective clothing to help the search for Zuma alongside waste management staff.

It took 2.5 hours of trawling through around 1,000 black bags, with the help of a thermal imaging camera; and incredibly Zuma was found safe and well, unaware of the enormity of his adventure.

Sarah Joiner said: “Thank you is never going to be enough. It was amazing teamwork; there was no nonsense about it just enormous goodwill in finding him. I can’t thank Jarno Stet from the council, Lynn Davis from Veolia, plus Ben Gillett and Simon Lane from Veolia enough.”

Cllr Melvyn Caplan, Westminster City Council’s Cabinet Member for City Management and Customer Services said: “We’ve all had that feeling of panic when we realise we’ve lost something, but when it’s a much loved family pet then it really is a disaster. On this occasion the understanding and hard work of our waste services staff is an exemplar of how we strive to ensure our residents receive outstanding customer service. This example of going above and beyond what is required is one Westminster can be proud of, and I commend our staff and colleagues at Veolia for pulling out the stops to ensure a successful reunion between Zuma and Sarah.”

Lynn Davis, Contract Manager said: "I'm delighted we were able to find Zuma and return him to Mrs Joiner unharmed, he really has survived against the odds. The team were all keen to help when they heard what had happened and together we were able to ensure that the search was conducted safely and effectively. This was certainly a different way to spend a Friday afternoon and I'm just relieved we were successful."

Last updated: 2 September 2016
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