Balkan Hermann's Tortoise
|Geographical Range||Southern Europe, from Sicily to the Balkan Peninsula and Turkey|
|Habitat||Woodlands, scrublands, dry meadows, rocky slopes|
|Scientific Name||Testudo hermanni hermanni|
Hermann's tortoises prefer dry habitats with thick vegetation. Here they find a variety of plants to eat, including legumes, buttercups, grasses and tree fruits. Though they're mostly herbivorous, they snack on the occasional earthworm, snail, slug, insect or carrion.
Courtship and mating occur in the spring. There's nothing subtle about their courtship: the male chases the female, rams her shell, and bites at her head and legs. Females lay between two and 12 eggs, and the hatchlings emerge in late summer. The tortoises take 12 or more years to mature into adults that are just five to nine inches long.
There are two subspecies of Hermann's tortoise -- the Balkan subspecies (which we have here at the Saint Louis Zoo) and another which is found further west in Europe. While all Hermann's tortoises are in danger in the wild, the Balkan subspecies is in particular trouble. At one time, many of the tortoises were captured for the pet trade. This occurs less frequently today, but the tortoises face other problems -- habitat destruction, wildfires and predation by feral animals.
Did You Know?
During the winter, Hermann's tortoises burrow underground to brumate. This means they're in a hibernation-like state during which they may have periods of wakefulness.