CASA GRANDE, AZ - Who would take Stumpy the tortoise? A Valley man told ABC15 that his stolen Suburban with his reptiles inside was found Thursday morning.
"Wildman" Phil Rakoci lives in Casa Grande, but he makes his living traveling with a truck full of reptiles. He was in Colorado when his vehicle went missing.
He told ABC15 Thursday morning that his vehicle was found in Denver. He was on his way to check to make sure they were OK.
The self-described naturalist and humorist goes to schools all over the country to educate kids about animals that would give a lot of people the creeps.
Rakoci was in Englewood, Colorado this week, scheduled to do shows for about 800 school kids. He left his 1999 Suburban parked with the engine running so the animals could stay warm. He usually locks it with a remote, he said, but thieves somehow found a way to make off with the truck.
"It's pretty heartwrenching," Rakoci said. It's especially tough because one of those reptiles has a special place in Phil's heart.
About seven years ago, someone dropped off an African Spurred tortoise on Phil's doorstep. He was missing part of one of his front legs, and the other front leg was gone. Phil named him Stumpy, and even attached a wheel to his shell so he could get around.
Now, Stumpy is the star of Phil's traveling show. "He's pretty friendly for a tortoise," Phil said. "He loves people."
In fact, Stumpy has no trouble coming out of his shell even when surrounded by dozens of curious kids enticing him with juicy lettuce.
When they went missing, Phil said he didn't really care about the Suburban. He was just disappointed the school kids won't get a chance to learn about the environment, and he really hoped someone would bring the animals back.