< Fauna
Hermann's tortoise
Eurotestudo hermanni

Hermann's tortoise (Eurotestudo hermanni) is one of the two terrestrial turtles species found in Bulgaria. The main diagnostic features that distinguish Hermann's tortoises from the other species tortoise - the spur-thighed tortoise, are associated with the carapace (the dorsal/back, convex part of the shell). By Hermann's tortoise the sequence of five central carapace’s scutes is generally narrow and the middle scute is tighter than the last one. Usually this tortoise has two scutes above the tail (supracaudal suctes). Another feature typical for this species is the presence of an anterior horn on the tail’s tip.
Length of the carapace is up to 16 cm, but most commonly is between 15-25 cm. Hermann's tortoise lays two or three times 2-5 white, slightly elongated eggs, which it buries in a deep hole on dry, sunny places. The eggs hatch after about 100 days. The species is wintering in the crumbly soil on dry slopes, almost always facing south, where it digs downhill hole with a depth of 30-90 cm. Hermann's tortoise can survive brief cold snap, leading to a drop of the temperature below 0°C inside its shelter. Usually it comes out on the surface in April.
The top of the tortoise's head is covered by many small scales. Unlike the aquatic turtles, the legs of tortoises are adapted for walking - the fingers are fused and only their claws are free. A characteristic feature is the absence of teeth. The food graining is done by the ossified sharp edges of the jaws. Hermann's tortoise’s diet contains mostly vegetation, sometimes mollusks and other invertebrates.
Hermann's tortoise likes the day light. In spring and autumn it is active almost all day long, but during the hottest months, mornings and evenings. Hermann's tortoise is widespread throughout Bulgaria except in Dobrudja region and the high closed fields of Western Bulgaria. Nowadays the tortoises are becoming extinct in many places in the lowlands of northern Bulgaria and Thrace, where their habitat is destroyed by the modern agriculture and the urbanization, which causes general modification of the landscape. Moved from their usual dwellings and put in new unsuitable habitat, the tortoise are doomed to slow death from malnutrition or frost in winter.
In Bulgaria the Hermann's tortoise is a [color=red]protected species[/color]. Although in many places it is still largely spread, the tortoise is a highly endangered species in the Bulgarian fauna. Main reasons for its misfortune are the modern agriculture and the reduction of forest area as well as its collecting for consumption.

Bojana Ribarova

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