Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni ) is native to Europe. You will find them around the Mediterranean Ocean ranging from Romania and Greece to southern Spain. It is one of five tortoise species traditionally placed in the genus Testudo.
- The western subspecies, Testudo hermanni hermanni, is found in northeast Spain, southeast France, western or southern Italy and Majorca, Minorca, Sardinia, Sicily, and Corsica.
- The eastern subspecies, T. h. boettgeri, is found in eastern Italy, the Balkans, Greece, and western Turkey.
- A third subspecies, T. h. hercegovinensis, is found in Bosnia and Croatia. This subspecies share the morphological features and coloring of other subspecies.
Nobody knows for certain how long a captive-born Hermann’s tortoise can live. However, based on the longevity of animals acquired as adults, and that of similar species, life spans exceeding 50 years can be expected. Other species in the genus Testudo have been documented to live over 120 years in the wild.
Hermann’s tortoises are small to medium-sized tortoises. Female Hermann’s tortoises are typically larger than males once mature. However, even the largest female specimens rarely exceed 8 inches in length, making them easy to accommodate, regardless of gender.
Hermann’s tortoises are unique due to their divided supracaudal scute, which is a scale-like plate located on the tail end of their shell. Another unique feature of Hermann’s tortoises is a horny scale located on the tail.
The coloration of the shell varies – the western subspecies is very colorful, while the eastern subspecies is relatively dull. Young animals and some adults have attractive black and yellow-patterned carapaces, although the brightness may fade with age to a less distinct gray, straw, or yellow coloration. Both subspecies have distinct dark bands under the shell.
These tortoises can have 4 or 5 front claws/digits, which is apparently strongly influenced by the genetic characteristics of the mother. Females with 4 claws on their front limbs are 4 times as likely to have offspring with the same number of claws. The Hermanns tortoises have slightly hooked upper jaws and, like other tortoises, possess no teeth.
Hermann’s Tortoise Breeding
Sex can be identified in juveniles by the combination of a number of subtle differences in the shapes of the tail, carapace, plastron and anal scutes. It takes at least 4 years or sometimes up to 10, before carapace differences are obvious, as the carapace length must be 4 inches or more to be useful in sex determination.
Hermann’s tortoises brumate during the winter and become active again in late February. These tortoises are active during the day and may aestivate in the summer months, if necessary. Hibernation for cold-blooded animals is called “brumation.” Many species of temperate-climate turtles and tortoises brumate or hibernate, in the winter.
Hermann’s tortoises begin mating immediately following hibernation, which ends in late February. Females build nests by digging into the ground and then deposit their eggs several centimeters deep in the soil. Females may lay more than one clutch of eggs in one breeding season. Incubation lasts an average of 90 days, with the eggs hatching in mid-August to September.
Hermann’s tortoises breed seasonally once per year, in February after their winter hibernation. Hermann’s tortoises communicate through a variety of visual, auditory, olfactory, and tactile signals. These signals are used in several different ways in reproduction.
Females use vision to choose quality mates based on favorable morphological traits. Hermann’s tortoises sniff for olfactory signals emitted by females, although it is not fully known what these olfactory signals represent. Males also compete to mate with females by biting the female’s legs but are not as aggressive as other species of tortoises. Females and males both have multiple mates.
Females build their nests in the forests, which keeps the eggs isolated from predators. Due to habitat destruction within their range, they are also found in habitats such as dry, hilly grasslands or farmland.
For Hermann’s tortoise eggs to be able to develop and hatch successfully in 88-100 days. The temperature must stay in the range of 73 to 93°F, and mortality rates are still quite high at the extreme ends of this range. Soil temperature directly determines the sex of the hatchling. When the temperature is between 88.7 and 92.3°F, more males than females are born (85 to 90% males at 91.4°F). However, this patterns follows a bell curve at 88.7 and 93.2°F, the sex ratio is nearly 50:50. After hatching in the wild the hatchlings are at a high risk of predation and stay close to their nests, only leaving their hatching sites after their carapace has completely developed and hardened.
Housing Hermmann’s Tortoises…
These tortoises originate in the grasslands and varied terrain and will thrive in similar dry and moderate conditions.
Hermann’s tortoises require a wooden vivarium as their enclosure. This is because wood is an excellent insulator of heat and so a wooden vivarium will make it easier to control the crucial temperatures required inside the habitat. The wooden vivarium should have good ventilation to allow air flow in and out of the enclosure.
Tortoise tables are awesome used for Hermann’s tortoises, but as they can’t retain heat they are only recommended for use in houses that are naturally warm. The table should be at least 900mm (35″) long.
Feeding Hermmann’s Tortoises…
A Hermann’s tortoise’s diet consists of vegetation. Good foods include dandelion, clover, honeysuckle, leafy salads, watercress, curly kale, Brussel tops, spring greens, coriander, parsley, rocket, carrot, parsnip, courgette and bell peppers. The bulk of the vegetation should be leafy greens.
The diet should also include fibrous plants like grasses and weeds. Good weeds include plantains, white nettle, corn poppy, chickweed, bindweeds, hawkbit, viola’s, goatsbeard, nipplewort etc. For times when fresh food is not available, or for variety, there are pre-made tortoise dried foods available that most tortoises relish. If you are worried about what not to feed your tortoise click to read more Bad Plants For Animals. If you would like more on how to feed your tortoise click What Is The Best Diet For My Tortoise?
To provide tortoises with optimal nutrition and to keep them in the best of health, they will require diet supplementation in the form of calcium, vitamins, and minerals. These are most commonly available as powders
Calcium should be provided daily and dusted directly onto the tortoise’s food. Vitamins may be added daily for young tortoises, but adults will only require them every other day.
The tortoise should be given a shallow bath 2-3 times a week for 10 minutes. This will enable them to take on fresh water and stimulate them to empty their waste. Click to read more Why Soaking Tortoises Is Important.’
Are They Endangerd?
Hermann’s tortoise is included in CITES Appendix II and it is listed as “near threatened” by the International Union on Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Populations have declined due to construction, poaching, wildfires, and herbicides. Construction results in drastic habitat loss and fragmentation.
Road construction, especially, separates tortoise populations and leads to vehicular mortality. Wildfires have been reported to have eradicated up to 50% of the population. The effects of these disturbances have a large impact on Hermann’s tortoise populations, due to their long lifespans and late age at sexual maturity. Reintroduction programs have been implemented in an attempt to stabilize existing populations.
Hermann’s tortoises have entered the pet trade through European exports. Hermann’s tortoises are also used for food in some Asian countries.
Hermann’s tortoises are important to our environment because they prey on small mollusks and insects, and newly hatched young are preyed on by a number of different species. However, adult Hermann’s tortoises are prey to very few natural predators.
Adult Hermann’s tortoises have very few natural predators because of their ability to tuck into their shell to avoid predation. However, young Hermann’s tortoises are at risk of predation by a number of species, including rats, birds (particularly magpies), snakes, wild boar, foxes, badgers, and hedgehogs. As a tortoise matures and its shell hardens, the risk of predation decreases
Purchase Captive Bred Animals Only!
Like most tortoises; if they are bred in captivity and kept properly they will probably remain free from parasites.
A wild caught turtle should be examined by a vet to assure that is healthy and free from parasites such as larvae and parasitic flies.
These wild-caught tortoises are known to host nematode parasites. It’s always a good idea to keep new pets quarantined from your current turtles until you’re sure they don’t carry a viral or bacterial infection. Consider taking them to a vet for a check-up before placing them in with your current pet turtles.