Butti is an old, rare Indian star tortoise. For 13 years he had been happily residing in The Loft of the Colorado-based Cheyenne Zoo, until one Sunday where he went missing.
Unlike that New York media-aided bronx zoo cobra, the tale of Butti has not become an instant viral sensation. Even though an inevitable fake Twitter account has been created, there's been little hyperbole bestowed on a Tortoise that's perhaps meandering around the streets of the Rocky Mountain state. Zoo officials believe (and are probably right) that something nefarious happened and that the "grapefruit" sized Tortoise has been stolen. "Officials say someone might have walked off with the Indian Star tortoise because he's so small," concluded one news report. We may never know, but do hope for his safe return. In the meantime, there has been no lack of effort to turn the Butti into an Internet sensation.
On March 28th, mysterious reports first surfaced of a missing, possibly escaped, possibly stolen rare Indian Star Tortoise on the Sunday before. "A rare tortoise has disappeared from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado," observed the Associated Press. Local Colorado news outlets sent reporters to the scene to investigate, framing Butti's absence as a tale of one reptile ripped away from his home and family: "Two brothers together almost every day of their 13 years, now one without the other," lead the on-camera anchors. "Crews frantically searched The Loft and swept the zoo but could not find him," Fox 21 concluded, identifying potential culprits: "staff reported there were several visitors in The Loft during the suspected time Butti went missing."
March 29 marked, perhaps, the height of the now-hopelessly-dated frenzy surrounding the escaped Egyptian cobra. Dutifully, tweeters made the connection. "Now there is a rare tortoise missing from the Colorado Springs zoo! #stopthemadness," wrote one. "@BronxZoosCobra A rare tortoise just went missing from a zoo in Colorado Springs. Look what you started," noted another. "Rare tortoise missing from Colorado Springs zoo...First the cobra, now this. I SMELL COALITION," predicted one more. Alas, it wasn't to be...
By the next day, the first tweet from the inevitably created fake rare tortoise account, @buttitortoise, read "Broke out a few days ago, it took time to get my shell phone to work." It's mildly humorous follow-ups like "plodding wins the race," were probably anything as good as what the fake cobra account tweeted. But, sadly, Butti the fake twitter account never seemed to get on its own footing. Even with a push from local radio stations ("Missing Tortoise Speaks Out On Twitter" baited one story) the tortoise account gained only 75 fans, while New York media-aided bronx cobra boasts over 200,000. "Slow and steady wins the race," the tortoise has cautioned. We'll see.
Seeking Butti's safe return, a Denver man offered a bounty of $700 for his safe return. Local press, of course, caught wind and attempted to re-energize a story that was short on details (previously, the most urgent items divulged about the tortoise was that it had a history of upper respiratory infections and that if he wasn't returned "he might develop gastrointestinal problems, osteoporosis or experience kidney failure"). That's when "Bring Butti Back" became an angle for the state's Fox affiliate. "'Bring Butti back.' It's not the latest dance move, it's what The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is asking of whoever stole their tortoise," began the article. CNN and CBS seemed faintly interested in fanning the flames of the missing tortoise meme.
Even though the zoo appealed on Twitter to @Regis_and_Kelly @TheEllenShow @TheOnion for attention, the calls appeared to fall on deaf ears. The possible reason? "World’s Most Famous Escaped Cobra CAPTURED!" blared the headlines. Yes, the Bronx cobra had officially been found, and after bloggers spent six days spent live-tweeting updates of the snake's giddy exploits roaming throughout Manhattan, a tortoise crawling along in Colorado Springs didn't seem to have quite the same nerdy appeal.
By the time of the capture Twitter interest (as gauged by Google realtime results) had tailed off for the missing rare tortoise. In what could be an instance of poor timing, the internet became preoccupied by its bread-and-butter entertainment: goofy viral videos and stunts devised by amateur and professionals celebrating April Fools Day. The missing Butti meme was still around, but it began to stale: "It's so sad. @BronxZoosCobra was much sassier than @ButtiTortoise," bluntly appraised one bored netizen. Indeed, and the meme cycle churned on.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.