For a week, a Chester County woman had been looking for her escaped 52-pound African sulcata tortoise.

Last night, Nala was back home after an odyssey that took her out to northwestern Lancaster County.

No, she didn't crawl all the way out there. She was picked up by a concerned passerby and eventually transported to a reptile rescue called Forgotten Friend in Manheim.

"I am ecstatic," said Simmer Dougherty, Nala's owner.

Dougherty, 48, of Chester Springs, was notified yesterday afternoon by the passerby, Kevin Kopanski, that Nala was safe at the reptile rescue. Kopanski told her he saw a story yesterday about the missing tortoise on

Dougherty drove out last evening to pick up Nala.

On May 20, the tortoise pushed open a gate left partly unsecured after some duck chow was delivered. Kopanski was driving down Route 113 when he saw the tortoise being poked by someone with a stick.

The location, Dougherty said, was about four houses away from her.

Kopanski took the tortoise to the Great Valley Nature Center. The next day, Nala was taken to Forgotten Friend.

Dougherty runs a day care center in her house, and also cares for a lot of pets and rescue animals - a lamb, a miniature horse, dogs, goats, unwanted Easter chicks and ducks - on her acre of property.

Nala was an unwanted pet, too - brought in by a landlord who took her from a troubled tenant trying to terminate the terrapin, hoping to make soup.

This wasn't Nala's first unplanned excursion.

When Nala escaped two years ago, a deck contractor put her outside the fence, thinking she was a wild snapping turtle who got trapped.

"She got three miles away within 24 hours," Dougherty said. "She went to my neighbor's house and tried to get in their door."

The police were called, and Dougherty got her tortoise back.

This time, Dougherty is putting a new lock on the gate and taking other precautions to make sure Nala stays home.