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A 90-Year-Old Tortoise Called Zuma Has Been Rescued From A Rubbish Truck

"We were so lucky because if it hadn't been stuck in traffic, Zuma would have been squashed or incinerated."

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Meet Zuma, a 90-year-old tortoise from central London.

Jay Singh-Sohal / Westminster Council

His owner, Sarah Joiner, 56, was frantic last Friday when she came home from a swim at the local pool to find he'd disappeared.

Jay Singh-Sohal / Westminster Council

Zuma lives in Joiner's back garden in Westminster and usually likes to lurk in his terracotta shelter during the summer. But he was nowhere to be seen.

"Then I realised he had to have got into the rubbish," she told BuzzFeed News. "I'd been dead-heading some roses and there was a bag of cuttings that Zuma must have crawled into."

Jay Singh-Sohal / Westminster Council

Only one problem – the bins had just been collected that morning.

In a panic, Joiner called up Westminster city council asking for help in finding Zuma. Officials quickly used a GPS satellite tracker to find the refuse lorry as it made its way to a waste treatment facility.

"We were so lucky because if it hadn't been stuck in traffic, Zuma would have been squashed or incinerated," Joiner said.

Jay Singh-Sohal / Westminster Council

Joiner hopped in a taxi to the waste facility to help officials trawl through more than 1,000 black bags in the hope of finding little Zuma.

And after two and a half hours of searching, they finally located him. "They lifted up this sack and out came some flowers and then there was the tortoise!" Joiner said.

Jay Singh-Sohal / Westminster Council

"He had his legs out and his head and he looked quite indignant," she added.

Jay Singh-Sohal / Westminster Council

"Everyone was really excited and wanted their picture taken with him."

Jay Singh-Sohal / Westminster Council

Joiner, a deputy chair of the MS Trust charity, said Zuma took himself straight to bed when they got home. "But then he ate and ate and ate on the Saturday."

She said she would always be grateful to the council and Veolia, the company that operates the waste treatment facility. "They were amazing – everyone worked together with genuine goodwill and they were determined to find him."

Jay Singh-Sohal / Westminster Council

Zuma, whose full name is Montezuma, is now happily recovering at home.

Jay Singh-Sohal / Westminster Council

Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Emily Ashton at emily.ashton@buzzfeed.com.

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