Radio Tracking of Endangered Turtles
HERMANN'S TORTOISE ... (Testudo hermanni boettgeri) is an exclusive herbivorous reptile known under different names across the Iron Gates Natural Park. It is a protected species, being threatened due to the decrease of the population and to the habitat destruction.
Hermann's tortoise habitats span the Balkan Peninsula and the Italic Peninsula. The species occurs in soutwestern Romania, between Strehaia and Bazias, a territory that is included in the Iron Gates Natural Park. It lives the grasslands and pastures close to forested or bushy areas, where it seeks shelter during day or night.
The Hermann's tortoise is a solitary species; in October it buries itself at under 15 cm underground and it hibernates until spring (March). The tortoise mates in the spring and in May - June, it lays a 6-7 eggs clutch in a hole it digs with its posterior limbs.
The eggs incubate between 3 to 4 months, and the juveniles hatch without any help from the females. In the incubation period, the nest can be destroyed by egg-eaters: martens, foxes, hedgehogs, etc. In consequnce, the survival rate is very low, only one of six eggs successfully hatching.
The tortoise body is covered by a hard shell, colored in yellow to olive. It is made of two distinct parts: the dorsal shell and the ventral plastron.
An obvious sexual dimorphism occurs; the males are smaller than the females, and they have a longer tail, with a stronger nail at the end.
The age of the tortoises can be identified by counting the rings of the shell plates. They live up to 60 years.
Hermann's tortoise is a peaceful animal, loved by the people, and some say that it brings luck to the people who meet it.
The main threats are poaching of juveniles and adult individuals and the habitat degradation. According to Romanian laws, these activities are subject of substantial fines.
Location of habitat and research project is near the village of Eselnita, south of Orsova, on the Danube River in Parcul National Portile de Fier (Iron Gates Natural Park).
(Source: Iron Gates Natural Park, Centre for Environmenttal Research and Impact Studies (CCMESI), University of Bucharest, Prof. Maria Patroescu, Copyright 2004, www.portiledefier.ro)