Eastern Hermann's Tortoise

Testudo hermanni boettgeri Mojsisovics, 1889

Testudo graeca: Kovachev, 1894: 746-747; Testudo hermanni Buresch & Zonkov, 1933: 159-161.

Order Cryptodyra

Family Testudinidae

Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Endangered EN [A3ac]; BDA-II, III; International: IUCN [LR/nt]; BeC-II, CITES-II, HD-II, IV.

General distribution. Southern Europe from the Northeastern coast of Spain to the Bosporus and in many of the Mediterranean islands. On the Balkan peninsula it is absent in large spaces in Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Bulgarian Dobrudzha; with singular populations in Romanian Dobrudzha. To the north of the Danube it is found in a small area to the northeast of Zhelezni vrata. In Bulgaria, the subspecies T. h. boettgeri Mojsisovics, 1889 [1] is found.

Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. It is found throughout the country without its northeastern part [2, 3]. In the mountains of Southwestern Bulgaria it has been found at altitudes of up to about 1450 m. [4, 5]. The numbers are severely affected by human activities. Between 1986 and 2006 they were strongly fragmented, disappearing populations of both tortoise species were found mosaically on about 40 % of the territory of the country; in about 30 % turtles are entirely extinct, in about 20 % (the high mountainous regions) they were never present at all, and in about only 10 % of the populations they are in a comparatively good condition mainly at the feet of the mountains in Southwestern Bulgaria, the Eastern Rhodopes, Sakar and Strandzha [5].

Habitats. Low mountainous and hilly regions, most frequently overgrown with thinned forests and shrubs.

Biology. 2-3 times a year it lays 2-5 elongated eggs each time. The young ones hatch in 90 120 days. It mainly feeds on vegetable food. They winter in crumbly soil, usually on southern slopes, burying themselves at depths of up to several tens of centimeters.

Similar species. The Mediterranean Spur Thigh "Greek Tortoise" (T. graeca), with which it is found in many places. It differs from it in the shape and the location of the small corneous shields on the back, especially the middle longitudinal row of 5 small shields [5].

Negative factors. Man's agricultural activity, especially in the last decades (creation of larger fields, irrigation systems, machine processing of the land), elimination of the forms of the microrelief, destruction of forests in the valleys; collection for food by the population and for "curing", in spite of its proved uselessness. A negative effect is also exercised by large infrastructure building (motorways, gas pipelines, etc.), construction along the Black Sea coast, forest fires (especially in Southeastern Bulgaria), the substitution of deciduous forests with coniferous ones. In the low mountainous parts of the regions of Berkovitsa, Chiprovtsi and Belogradchik wild-boars often feed on small and young individuals.

Conservation measures taken. Regulations have been passed for partial or full protection of both tortoise species (1961, 1981 and 1986); posters and stickers are published popularizing their protection (1985, 2001 and 2005); published in the press and broadcast on radio and TV are many materials about the protection of tortoises. Many of the populations of the species fall within protected territories.

Conservation measures needed. Large popularization of the nature conservation status of tortoises; strict control and sanctioning the activities of poachers; explaining the uselessness of "turtle cure"; territorial protection at the places with the densest populations and of separate endangered populations.

References. 1. Beshkov, 1997; 2. Buresch & Zonkov, 1933; 3. Unjian, 2000; 4. Beshkov, 1984; 5. Beshkov & Nanev, 2002.

Author: Vladimir Beschkov


Eastern Hermann's Tortoise (distribution map)

Eastern Hermann's Tortoise (drawing)