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Hermann’s Tortoise Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common Name:Hermann’s tortoise
Scientific Name:Testudo hermanni
Life Span:More than 20 years
Size:6 to 10 inches
Habitat:Mediterranean oak forests, pastures, rocky hillsides, and scrublands
Country of Origin:Southern Europe

Physical Description

Hermann's tortoise

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Hermann’s tortoise is a small-to-medium-sized tortoise that originated in southern Europe. The young and adult tortoises have beautiful carapaces with yellow and black patterns. While young, their carapaces look bright and vibrant but will eventually fade as they age. The coloration becomes less distinct, straw, yellow, or gray. 

The Hermann’s tortoise has a slightly hooked jaw. Like other species, this tortoise does not have teeth. It only has a strong and horny beak. Its scaly limbs can be brown to grey with yellow marks. Its tail bears a spur or horny spike at the end. 

The adult male Hermann’s tortoise has a long, thick nail and a well-developed spur that makes it different from a female. The eastern subspecies (T. h. boettgeri) is bigger than the western (T. h. hermanni) as it reaches the size of 28 cm or 11 in. long. The Hermann’s tortoise rarely grows bigger than 18 cm. Some adult tortoises tend to be smaller, measuring 7 cm. 

Geographic Range

Hermann’s tortoise could be found across southern Europe. The population in the west is found in east Spain, south France, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, the Balearic Islands, and central Italy. The population in the east can be found in Kosovo, Serbia, Romania, North Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey, while the T. h. hercegovinensis exists in the shores of Herzegovina, Bosnia, Montenegro, and Croatia. 

Distribution

Hermann’s tortoise can be found in the south of Europe from northeast Spain, south France, western and southern Italy, Turkey, and Romania. It can also be found in different islands within the Mediterranean. Hermann’s tortoise prefers to stay in those areas where it can find a shaded and quiet place to rest. It hates the moist areas. 

Life Span

The eldest known tortoise had lived for more than 110 years. It’s a very rare case, but a healthy and happy Hermann’s tortoise may live for more than 20 years. you can even expect it to live for up to 50 years. Therefore, this tortoise can be a good pet for a keeper that looks forward to a long-term commitment. 

Habitat

Hermann’s tortoise can be found in the rocky hillsides, Mediterranean oak forest, scrubland, and pastures. These places have south-facing slopes. Also, they have more edible weeds and low-lying shrubs. This tortoise uses the logs, rocks, shrubs, and grasses in climbing, burrowing underneath, and in creating scrapes used as retreats for tortoises to hide inside and seek shade. 

This animal isn’t found in the water. It is a poor swimmer due to where it lives. Water is barely available. This tortoise is getting most of its water through its diet and might drink from the rain puddles, too. 

Lifestyle and Habits

When winter begins, Hermann’s tortoise will hibernate and return to its normal life in late February. It is active throughout the day and may become dormant for a long time in summer only when necessary.

The tortoise leaves its shelter that is often made of hollows secured by thick bushes or hedges to warm its body by basking in the sun. After its basking routine, it roams around the meadows of its Mediterranean habitat to look for food. 

Hermann’s tortoise has a strong sense of smell that helps it determine the best plants to eat. When the sun is at its peak, the animal will go back to its shelter. The home range for this species differs for every population. 

A female tortoise typically has the larger home range between 0.9 and 7.4 ha., but males have the range between 0.7 and 4.6 ha. The sizes of these home ranges might be limited because of the loss of habitat. Hermann’s tortoises communicate with one another through the range of auditory, visual, olfactory, and tactile signals. These signals are useful in their reproduction. 

Breeding

Breeding and raising Hermann’s tortoise is somewhat easy when you keep the animal in a suitable environment. By using a UV light-emitting bulb, the ideal setting for breeding could be made and help the tortoise shift into the breeding state.

Hibernation

Naturally, Hermann’s tortoise digs its night shelter and spend the mild Mediterranean winter. At this period, the heart and respiratory system of the animal drops remarkably. A Hermann’s tortoise raised in captivity could be kept inside of the spacious rat-proof box within the basement with a thick sheet of dry leaves. 

When it comes to temperature, it must be around 5 degrees Celsius. Alternatively, you can store the box inside the refrigerator. To use this method, the fridge must be regularly used to allow airflow. When your pet hibernates, the ambient temperature should not go down to zero. A full-grown Hermann’s tortoise may hibernate for 4-5 months.

Reproduction

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This tortoise is ready for mating anytime throughout the year. A female makes flask-shaped holes where it lays the eggs. Then, the eggs will be there for 90 to 120 days until the perfect time for hatching. The gender of the developing hatchlings will depend on the incubation temperature. 

In the woods, Hermann’s tortoise will wake up after its long winter rest that happens from March to May, depending on the region. Nesting takes place from May to July. The male reaches the peak in its sexual activity soon after the emergence from its hibernaculum and several weeks before it cools down for the upcoming winter. 

When it engages in courtship, the male tortoise rams and runs after the female persistently while biting its face and legs. If the female listens and reacts, copulation is the next thing. During copulation, the male tortoise will emit a lot of high-pitched yelps and keeps its mouth open as it extends its tongue. A gravid female becomes aggressive and very restless as the oviposition is getting closer. The tortoise will bite, ram, or mount to other females continuously.

Development

To make sure the eggs will develop and hatch effectively, the temperature inside the incubator must stay between 23 to 34 degrees Celsius. Mortality rates will remain high at the intense ends of the range. The majority of the eggs will develop into male Hermann’s tortoises. This happens especially when the temperature stays at around 33 degrees Celsius. 

But these patterns will follow the bell curve at 31.5 to 34 degrees Celsius. The sex ratio is almost 50:50. When the eggs hatched, the hatchlings have to keep themselves safe. Their weak carapaces make them highly vulnerable to predators. This is why they tend to stay near their nests and leave the hatching sites only when their carapaces are already hard and well-developed. 

Perception and Communication

Hermann’s tortoises communicate with one another by using different auditory, visual, tactile, and olfactory signals. They use these signals in many different ways during reproduction. The females are using vision in choosing the right partners when they are ready to mate. They do it based on the promising morphological traits. 

Male use high-pitched calls in attracting females. When females accept the calls of the males, they will allow the males to mount them and start mating. Before they mate, the male tortoises will look for the olfactory signals produced by females though it’s unknown what do these signals represent. 

Predation

Adult tortoises have some natural predators due to their capability to tuck in their shells to prevent predation. However, young tortoises are more susceptible to predators like birds, rats, snakes, foxes, wild boars, hedgehogs, and badgers due to their weak carapaces. They have to be good at escaping when predators are around and wait for years until their shells harden. By that time, they become less prone to predation. 

Their Roles in the Ecosystem

The Hermann’s tortoise preys on the tiny insects and mollusks. Moreover, this animal has been found to host nematode parasites. 

Population Threats

The history says people were eating Hermann’s tortoise during World War II to survive from the rising issue of food scarcity. Those who live in the convents and monasteries hunted them for food when they fast. 

Today, the main threat to the population of Hermann’s tortoises is habitat destruction. The progressive development of lands into cities made their range fragmented and smaller. Wildfires affect both Hermann’s tortoises and their homes. Despite the laws implemented that protect these animals, people are still poaching them for the pet trade.

Temperament and Behavior

The gentle and passive Hermann’s tortoise makes it a good pet for the right individual who resides in the ideal climate with more outdoor space. As an active creature, it loves to run, forage, dig, sunbathe, and climb. 

The male tortoise frequently interacts and may join a fight, especially throughout the mating periods occurring in fall and spring. When courting the females, the males will chase and bump the females, which may cause harm sometimes. Due to that, the males should be housed separately from the females to prevent injury and put them together only when during the breeding season. 

Handling

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Hermann’s tortoise can be handled every day. Extra care is necessary not to drop the animal while handling it. The legs of this tortoise are strong, so support it firmly while handling. Around 10 to 15 minutes of handling done in 3 to 4 times per week is a good handling routine, though it may vary based on the animal. 

When getting a new pet, avoid handling the tortoise within 24 hours. Let your Hermann’s tortoise adjust to its new surroundings first. Also, don’t force the animal in case it reacts negatively when you try to pick it up from the enclosure. 

Likewise, don’t forget to wash your hands for hygiene purposes. Washing your hands is important before and after handling the pet. Use a good antibacterial handwash agent before and after touching your tortoise. 

Nutrition

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A wild Hermann’s tortoise is an herbivore, and the same diet type must be followed for a captive tortoise. A big part of its diet must include different dark and leafy green vegetables. The best choices are collard greens, romaine lettuce, kale, carrot tops, beet greens, and mustard greens. 

Aside from these staples, other vegetables like squash, carrots, and bell peppers could also be added to your pet’s diet. You can also give treats for some time. Your choices are fruits like apples, figs, strawberries, and bananas. Fruits must make up less than 10 percent of your pet’s diet. 

The use of a commercially available pelleted diet is suggested as the base for its diet. A high-quality diet will give your pet trace minerals. Likewise, it adds variety to your diet with the least effort. 

Hays and grasses like those given to horses, cows, and other livestock could be introduced to your Hermann’s tortoise, too. The eagerness to accept these foods will differ from one animal to another but must be provided as a supplementary source of fiber. The foods must be lightly dusted with a top-quality vitamin D3/calcium supplement. It is necessary, especially for young animals and egg-laying females. Young tortoises should receive more calcium doses, but older animals require fewer doses of this supplement. 

A reptile multivitamin must be used, too. Again, juvenile tortoises require frequent supplementation compared to adult specimens. The provision of widely varying diets will reduce and not eliminate the demand for multivitamins. 

Dosing and formula suggestions for vitamin and calcium supplements differ from one manufacturer to another. So, you must check the label carefully to prevent under and over-dosing. 

Common Health Issues Among Hermann’s Tortoises

During the mating period, Hermann’s tortoises tend to be more aggressive in both ways – male to male and male to female. So, the inspection of these animals is always necessary. Check them for wounds throughout this crucial period. 

If injuries are detected, the first step is to isolate the injured tortoise. After that, clean the wound and clear the lingering debris. Use an antibacterial agent like honey and apply it. Prevent infection by dressing the wound. Be careful when doing it because Hermann’s tortoises don’t want unnecessary handling that can stress them further. Likewise, stress is not good for a wounded tortoise as it can prolong the healing process. 

Also, don’t ignore the wound. Don’t leave it open as it may lead to infection. The open wound can become a breeding site for maggots and flies, too. Those tortoises raised in captivity are prone to other illnesses. Respiratory infections may take place in tortoises that haven’t been appropriately cared for. Environmental stresses and lack of clean water and fresh food can result in an infection.

If you think your pet is dealing with a respiratory infection, bring it to a veterinarian specializing in exotic pets. He may prescribe antibiotics. With proper living conditions and care, your pet’s condition must improve. However, the tortoise may take weeks to a month to fully recover.

The metabolic disease may take place in captive tortoises because of the lack of calcium or the issue in absorbing calcium. Since these animals bask under the sun for extended hours, you should provide your pet with full-spectrum light. This will help the animal absorb vitamin D coming from the sun.

The prevention of metabolic disease is simple. Just give your pet the ideal growing conditions and adequate nutrients. Still, when the animal is still showing the symptoms of the disease such as the misshapen or softshell, the only thing you can do is to bring it to the veterinarian.

Furthermore, you need to correct the conditions. Giving liquid calcium can also be helpful. When dehydration happens, the cloaca may get in trouble if the bladder develops a stone which the animal will then try to pass. Once it occurs, your veterinarian would help in removing the stone and put the organ back within which sometimes require suturing for a full recovery. 

Housing

Hermann’s tortoise is an active animal that requires more space inside the enclosure. Even if the cage is spacious enough, an outdoor pen is useful and ideal during the warmer periods. An outdoor pen must be secure to prevent the tortoise from escaping. A tortoise housed outdoors, even when for some hours in a day, will significantly benefit from natural sunlight, fresh air, and unlimited opportunity for grazing.

An indoor habitat must consist of the biggest feasible cage. One tortoise must have an enclosure measuring 36 in. long and 16 in. wide. A solid-sided cage is a great choice as it prevents the animal from seeing through the walls that may provoke it to persistently stride the edges of its cage. 

Lighting and Heating

A Hermann’s tortoise stays at its best when you keep it at the ambient temperature of below 80 degrees Fahrenheit and provide it easy access to the basking area that maintains the temperature between 95 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. By giving it just a localized hot spot, the tortoise can choose a site or switch spots to keep itself feeling comfortable. 

Standard heat bulbs, ceramic heat emitters, and under-tank heat pads are effective tools to use to keep Hermann’s tortoise properly warmed. The method or a combination of methods used rely on the type of the cage, its size, and ambient conditions inside the home. 

A well-lit enclosure is important to the overall wellbeing of your pet. A captive Hermann’s tortoise does well when left exposed to 12 hours of light coupled with 12 hours of no lighting. This particular photoperiod can be adjusted when you cycle these pets for breeding. 

Use a full-spectrum bulb made specifically for reptiles. These lights come in various models and forms. They give light in a UVB spectrum range. The rays produced by UVB lights are necessary as it helps Hermann’s tortoise in synthesizing vitamin D3. Likewise, it can help ensure proper metabolism of the dietary calcium. 

The use of conventional tube fluorescent light all over the whole enclosure is one way of adding light to the cage. The same is the case for using mercury vapor bulbs. These vapor bulbs are so beneficial in heating and lighting a tortoise enclosure. They emit more UVB and heat compared to other heating and lighting methods.

Furnishings and Substrates

A Hermann’s tortoise is an obligate burrower, so provide your pet with a deep sheet of suitable bedding. You can use one that is made of orchid bark, pulverized coconut, shredded aspen, or cypress mulch. Whatever kind of substrate you choose to use, make sure it’s easy to clean and is appropriate for digging. Don’t use a dusty substrate as it can result in respiratory and ocular ailments in the long run. 

Also, keep in mind that Hermann’s tortoise tends to be curious. It tests the durability of whatever placed in its cage. Due to its unintentional destructive behavior, excessive decors in the cage are neither necessary nor recommended. A simple addition of a durable shelter like a cave or habba hut on the ends of the cage will give ample coverage for your pet without making the environment over-cluttered. 

Water and Humidity

Hermann’s tortoise originates from different parts of the world, particularly those areas with long, harsh dry periods. Due to that, this species drinks water opportunistically as long as it is available. Thus, captive tortoises would rarely look for standing water and drink. Instead, they must be soaked once to twice every week in the chin-deep lukewarm water. If placed in the shallow water tray, these tortoises will automatically lower their heads to drink copiously. 

A few keepers out there give a constant source of water for their pets using a shallow and wide water dish. This practice does not harm animals for as long as the keepers check the water and dish, keeping them clean. 

Contaminated water is one of the common causes of diseases in captive reptiles like Hermann’s tortoises. It may significantly harm your pet.

Maintaining the ideal humidity level for Hermann’s tortoise must not be a problem. Remember, this reptile can easily adjust to various conditions. With fewer exceptions, the ambient humidity level inside the enclosure will be right for properly keeping this kind of tortoise. 

Cleaning

Clean your pet’s terrarium when needed. Get rid of the fecal matter and food leftovers many times weekly. Also, you need to replace the bedding once every month. The terrarium’s interior could be cleaned with the best reptile enclosure cleaner. Provide Hermann’s tortoise with fresh and clean water. 

Availability

If you want to take care of Hermann’s tortoise, then you should get the animal from a professional breeder for the sake of your pet’s health and survival. Getting it from a credible breeder guarantees your pet came from a good source. 

A reputable breeder also provides superb care. You can also get it from a reliable or well-known pet store online. Whatever route you choose, always make sure your pet will come from a reliable breeder or pet store. Also, check thoroughly the animal before getting it. Make sure it’s healthy, alive, and happy. 

How to Care for Hermann’s Tortoise?

A Hermann’s tortoise is an herbivore. In the forest, it prefers feasting on the plants but will infrequently consume invertebrates such as worms and snails. Avoid feeding your pet with meat, beans, and peas. The tortoise needs low phosphorus and high calcium diet. Be sure your pet gets the ideal amount of calcium through leaving the cuttlebone inside its enclosure. 

This tortoise does well with the diet consisting of more leafy green vegetables. You can also feed the animal with non-toxic flowers, clover, and weeds together with wild lupine, grass, hibiscus, romaine, chickweed, endive, dandelion, watercress, sow thistle, plantain leaves, rose, and lilac.

You may also introduce a range of veggies to your pet, including bell peppers, carrots, and squash, and some fruits like bananas, strawberries, figs, and apples. You may supplement the diet with high-quality vitamin for tortoises that prevent deficiencies.

FAQs

Does Hermann’s tortoise bite?

Hermann’s tortoise is less likely to bite. It can bite, but it happens only when you try putting your finger close to its mouth. 

Does Hermann’s tortoise love being handled?

Hermann’s tortoise does not find fun when being handled. Be extra careful to avoid accidentally dropping your pet while handling it.

How large does Hermann’s tortoise get?

The Hermann’s tortoise is often a medium-sized tortoise. The males may grow from 5 to 7 in. while females are bigger from 6 to 9 in. 

Does Hermann’s tortoise grow fast?

Like other tortoises, Hermann’s tortoise is taking more time to grow and reach physical and sexual maturity. Normally, it takes around 7 to 10 years to reach physical maturity.

Can I keep my Hermann’s tortoise indoors?

This will depend on the climate conditions in your area. Keeping Hermann’s tortoise outdoors is highly advisable when you are living in the area with an extremely hot climate. 

How often must I feed Hermann’s tortoise?

Most species of tortoises don’t need feeding every day. Feeding your Hermann’s tortoise 5 to 6 times every week is advisable.

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