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Hermann's Tortoise Fact File

Appearance

Hermann’s tortoises have a rounded, domed top to their shell. This is colored yellow, olive or brown as a base which is then patterned with a range of irregular dark markings. The shell is formed from keratin which is the same substance which makes up human fingernails. This creates growth rings as they grow.


Their forelimbs are heavily scaled. They also have a horny scale on their tail. On the head they have a slightly hooked upper jaw and a horny beak. The head is colored brown or black with a yellow spot on either side of the head.


The number of claws on their forelimb is either four or five. This is influenced by the number their mother had.


These tortoises are the smallest of the three tortoise species found in southern Europe. Males are typically smaller than females. They also have longer tails than the females.


The body of a hermann’s tortoise measures 15-20cm (6-8in) long with an average weight of 2-2.5kg (4.4-5.5lbs).

Diet

Hermann’s tortoises are primarily herbivorous. Most of their diet is made up of fruit, herbs, berries, flowers and leaves. In addition to this they also occasionally consume invertebrates such as snails and slugs along with carrion.

hermann's tortoise

Scientific Name

Testudo Hermanni

Conservation Status

Near Threatened

Weight

2-2.5kg (4.4-5.5lbs)

Length

15-20cm (6-8in)

Lifespan

60-70 years

Diet

Herbivorous

Range

Europe is the native home of the Hermann’s tortoise. Here they can be found in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Spain and Turkey.


An introduced population occurs on the island of Cyprus.

Habitat

Hermann’s tortoises make their home mostly in evergreen Mediterranean oak forest but will also inhabit grassland. They tend to live in arid areas with little moisture.


Near human populated areas they may inhabit the edges of agricultural areas and railway corridors.


They dig shallow burrows underground in which they can hide. These burrows will provide shelter to other species which may not be able to dig their own burrow.

hermann's tortoise

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Reproduction

Males compete for mating rights over the females between February and April. These battles see a pair of males ram, bite and attempt to flip their opponent over.


Once a female is near by the male will grunt which seems to influence which male the female selects.


Each year the female produces multiple clutches of between three and five eggs each. The female will dig a nest in to which she deposits the eggs. Typically only half of the eggs are successful. Lower temperatures during incubation will mean more males are born while higher temperatures produce more females.


At birth the young have soft, underdeveloped shells which makes them more vulnerable to predation.


Once the eggs are laid the parents provide no further care and they look after themselves from then onwards.

Behavior

Their powerful legs allow them to force their way through dense plant cover.


During winter these tortoises become dormant. During this period a hermann’s tortoise will be found submerged in loose soil and leaf litter.


For the rest of the year they are active during the day. They will bask and forage during this time. Nights are spent underground in a burrow.

hermann's tortoise

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the Hermann’s tortoise include rats, badgers, foxes, snakes, wild boar and birds of prey. Most predation is of juveniles. Once their shell hardens they have few predators.


When threatened they will draw their head and legs back in to the shell which helps to prevent animals eating them.


The biggest threat they face is collection for the pet trade. They have been awarded full protection but may still be collected in small numbers. Some are collected for use in traditional medicines.


Humans also impact them through habitat loss, vehicle strikes along with fertilizer and pesticide use.


Increasingly they are threatened by wildfires.

Quick facts

These animals are commonly kept as pets.

hermann's tortoise

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Photo Credits

Top

By Ivan Medenica – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54239530


Middle One

By Konstantinos Kalaentzis – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69998965


Middle Two

By 4028mdk09 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29610269


Bottom

By Jiel Beaumadier – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34922651

References

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Oaklandzoo.org. 2020. Oakland Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.oaklandzoo.org/animals/hermanns-tortoise> [Accessed 21 November 2020].

van Dijk, P.P., Corti, C., Mellado, V.P. & Cheylan, M. 2004. Testudo hermanni. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2004: e.T21648A9306057. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2004.RLTS.T21648A9306057.en. Downloaded on 21 November 2020.

Buffalo Zoo. 2020. Hermann's Tortoise – Buffalo Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://buffalozoo.org/animal/hermanns-tortoise/> [Accessed 21 November 2020].

Dudleyzoo.org.uk. 2020. Tortoise (Hermann’S Tortoise) – Dudley Zoo And Castle. [online] Available at: <https://www.dudleyzoo.org.uk/animal/tortoise-hermanns-tortoise/> [Accessed 21 November 2020].

Lavender, L. 2012. "Testudo hermanni" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 21, 2020 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Testudo_hermanni/

Pairi Daiza. 2020. Hermann’S Tortoise. [online] Available at: <https://www.pairidaiza.eu/en/activities/hermanns-tortoise> [Accessed 21 November 2020].

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