By John Smith •
Updated: 19 Sep 2023 • 17:14
Hoping to reintroduce Hermann’s tortoise in the wild
Credit: Gibraltar Government
Slow but steady wins the race as Gibraltar kicks off its rewilding programme by releasing three male and three female Hermann’s tortoises (Testudo hermanni) into the wild.
Research has found a number of remains of this reptile in various areas on the Rock but it was declared extinct some time ago so that it is hoped that this new ‘colony’ will become successful in the wild.
Rewilding, the re-introduction of species to locations where they once lived, is a growing activity across the world and this species of tortoise is considered to be near threatened across all of Europe.
Testudo hermanni is a small to medium-sized tortoise native to the Mediterranean regions of southern Europe which includes, parts of Spain, France, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and Italy
Females produce one or more clutches of three to five eggs per year with both sexes reaching 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.
The rewilding experiment in Gibraltar saw the six tortoises released at Parson’s Lodge (which will become a Natural History Museum and is part of the Gibraltar National Park) on Monday September 18.
The actual release, (which included additional species in the form of wild rabbits and Iberian water frogs) was arranged by Caretaker Minister for Heritage, Professor John Cortes, who is himself a wildlife specialist with a particular interest in reptiles.
One can only hope that no-one comes across the re-introduced tortoises and decides that they would make ideal pets!
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Married to Ophelia in Gibraltar in 1978, John has spent much of his life travelling on security print and minting business and visited every continent except Antarctica.
Having retired several years ago, the couple moved to their house in Estepona and John became a regular news writer for the EWN Media Group taking particular interest in Finance, Gibraltar and Costa del Sol Social Scene.
Currently he is acting as Editorial Consultant for the paper helping to shape its future development.
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