Beloved tortoise missing from Germantown’s Wyck farm

 Hans Haines Horsfield went missing early last week. (Photo courtesy of Christina Moresi)

Hans Haines Horsfield went missing early last week. (Photo courtesy of Christina Moresi)

Life around Wyck’s farm hasn’t been quite the same since Hans Haines Horsfield went missing. 

The male Russian tortoise has become a beloved fixture at the historic Germantown property since arriving last spring, befriending visiting school children as they learned about reptiles and, more broadly, the connections among all living things.

Early last week, though, Hans disappeared during a routine romp around the farm, one of his last before heading inside for the winter.

Hans, you see, is a desert tortoise and doesn’t care much for the cold.

“We searched hours and hours everyday for him,” said Christina Moresi, Wyck’s education program manager and Hans’ owner.

Only a bright yellow sunflower, taped to Hans’ olive-green shell to keep track of him the day he wandered off, turned up.

Moresi is devastated. Students will start coming back to the farm for lessons next week. She desperately hopes he’s back home by then.

“It’s just every day from now on, they’re going to ask, ‘where is he?’ And I’m going to have to tell the story,” said Moresi. “I just need him there for the kids.”

Last Thursday, Moresi hung up flyers in hopes of bringing Hans back home. To date, she hasn’t gotten a call about his whereabouts.

Moresi also filed a police report with the 14th District on Monday afternoon. The incident has been classified as lost property, which means, right now, Hans’ disappearance is not being considered a crime.

“In the whole scheme of things, it would be tough to get someone’s attention on this, though I’m sure it’s very tough for her,” said Capt. John Fleming, who heads the Northwest Philadelphia District.

Moresi is still holding out hope. She envisioned Hans being a staple at Wyck, and of Germantown, for years to come. His unusual name sheds some light on that vision.

Hans is named after a trio of men. Two of them have neighborhood ties — strong ones.

Hans Millan is the earliest known owner of the 50-acre plot where Wyck’s farm and historic mansion sit along Germantown Avenue. He bought it in 1690.

Reuben Haines, a well-known philanthropist in Philadelphia, briefly lived at Wyck during his childhood.

Hans’ last name is tied to the Russian tortoise being named after the American naturalist Thomas Horsfield, who is believed to be the first person to describe the species.

“He’s just another piece that adds to the Wyck experience,” said Bob McKee, Wyk’s outreach coordinator. “You don’t always get to see a tortoise.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.