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A Hermann's tortoise. SUR
Tortoise released into Gibraltar's National Park to repopulate

Tortoise released into Gibraltar's National Park to repopulate

The Hermann's tortoise was once a widespread natural species on the Rock

SUR in English

Friday, 22 September 2023, 16:42

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Six Hermann's tortoise (three male and three female) have been released into the wild at Parson's Rock, part of Gibraltar National Park.

Hermann's tortoise was once a widespread natural species on the Rock, as evidenced by numerous finds of the remains in Pleistocene deposits at Gorham's and Vanguard Caves and in Neanderthals' Grotto. They have been extinct locally up to now.

Caretaker Minister for Heritage, Prof John Cortes, said at the release on Monday, 18 September: “This is a really exciting occasion and part of the journey towards restoring as much of Gibraltar’s original wildlife as is possible. It’s a great initiative and so fitting in Parson’s Lodge, soon to be opened as a Museum of Natural History.”

Species

Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni) is a small to medium-sized species of tortoise belonging to the family Testudinidae and native to the Mediterranean regions of southern Europe. There are two recognised subspecies:thewestern Hermann’s tortoise (T. h. hermanni) and the eastern Hermann’s tortoise (T. h. boettgeri).

The western population occurs patchily from northeastern Spain (including the Balearic Islands), through southeastern France, Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily as well as the coastal plains of peninsular Italy. The eastern population is found in coastal Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, central and southern Serbia, inland to southwestern Romania, much of Bulgaria, North Macedonia, nearly all of Albania, the Greek mainland plus islands from Corfu to Zakynthos, and European Turkey. Additionally, it has been introduced to Cyprus.

Prof. John Cortes with a tortoise. SUR

Hermann’s tortoises prefer open patchy evergreen Mediterranean oak forest. However, they also inhabit other environments such as maquis, garigue, dune scrub and maritime grassland, as well as agricultural and railway edge habitats. Females produce one or more clutches of three to five eggs per year. Both sexes reach maturity around nine to 12 years of age.

Hermann’s tortoises emerge from their nocturnal shelters in the undergrowth during the early morning to bask in the sun and warm their bodies. They then roam about the Mediterranean meadows of their habitat, foraging for wildflowers.

Around noon, as the sun’s heat intensifies, they retreat to their shelters until the late afternoon as temperatures begin to cool again and resume feeding. They spend the relatively mild Mediterranean winters hibernating in their dug-out shelters. During this four to five-month period, their heartrate and breathing slow down considerably.

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