It was only after their father Leonel died earlier this month that the Almeida children began clearing out a second-floor room which he had filled with broken electrical items and always kept locked.
Leonel’s son, Leandro, said he was astonished to find Manuela alive inside a box containing an old record player.
He told Brazil’s Globo G1 website said: ‘I put the box on the pavement for the rubbish men to collect, and a neighbour said, “you’re not throwing out the turtle as well are you?”
‘I looked and saw her. At that moment, I turned white, I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.’
‘If he found an old television he thought he might be able to use a part of it to fix another one in the future, so he just kept accumulating things. We never dared go inside that room.
‘We’re all thrilled to have Manuela back.
‘But no-one can understand how she managed to survive for 30 years in there, it’s just unbelievable.’
Rio de Janeiro vet Jeferson Pires explained that Manuela’s red-footed species of tortoise, can go for long periods without eating.
He said: ‘They are particularly resilient and can survive for two to three years without food. In the wild they eat fruit, leaves, dead animals, even faeces.’ He said Manuela may have survived by eating termites from the wooden floors.