An Iowa museum says an employee hid an African leopard tortoise which had been presumed stolen in an elevator after finding the 18lb reptile trapped behind panelling in her enclosure.
The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque said the employee's bizarre move was a misguided attempt to prevent further embarrassment after officials announced that they believed the tortoise, named Cashew, had been taken as a prank.
Cashew was discovered in the elevator on Thursday and officials said they were guessing that the regretful thief had smuggled her back inside.
But museum president Jerry Enzler said an employee had actually found Cashew some time earlier, wedged behind a wall panel. The employee then put her in the elevator to keep up the impression she had been stolen. Mr Enzler said the employee will be reprimanded for the deception.