The new life of the Hermann’s tortoise

“The Hermann’s tortoise is a species in danger of extinction, hence the need to establish a population that can reproduce in a semi-captive environment”

– Jesús Almarza, Technical Director of Trenca

Trenca is responsible for a project aimed at creating a colony of Hermann’s tortoises that can live in this area in a semi-captive environment in which the tortoises can reproduce, and therefore recover the species without having to release the animals on a permanent basis. This project has already been put in motion and Endesa’s involvement is active and ongoing, by financing the work of technical experts in biodiversity conservation. “The first thing Endesa’s experts did was visit the area to define the work required to create the perfect habitat for the tortoises”, recalls Almarza.

This work, which was required in order to create a population of tortoises in a semi-captive environment, was carried out in a group of rural properties, covering an area of around 20 hectares managed by Trenca in Valle Mayor de Bovera (Lleida). Two ponds (400 and 100 square metres, respectively) were built and waterproofed with compacted clay. Fencing systems and double enclosures were also installed in the properties. The idea was to protect them insofar as possible from predators such as boars or foxes, enabling them to live in the wild, although closely monitored.

The release of the tortoises, a resounding success

22 June 2016. In collaboration with CRARC (Catalan Centre for Recovery of Amphibians and Reptiles) and with the assistance of volunteers, 52 Hermann’s tortoises were released. They all had a chip inserted in their shell to identify them, which allows permanent control and supervision.

Volunteers releasing around fifty Hermann’s tortoises in Les Garrigues (Lleida)

Volunteers releasing around fifty Hermann’s tortoises in Les Garrigues (Lleida)

The aim of this initial phase was for the tortoises to adapt to their new environment, basically controlling their whereabouts on the property. Hopes were raised when the first clutch of eggs was found; however, unfortunately they were preyed upon. “This normally occurs with the first clutches, but we hope to see not only the first successful clutch in 2017, but many more. We have no reason to think otherwise”, stated the head of the Trenca association.

The project has been a resounding success to date. The tortoises have adapted to the environment and we now have an established population living in semi-captivity. The idea is that as the tortoises have clutches that hatch successfully, the offspring can be taken out of the environment to create other populations. If everything goes well, this experience can even be exported to other points in Spain.

“Our challenge is to work towards preventing the extinction of this species. Campaigning for the recovery of fauna is not new to us; it is our raison d’être”

The Testudo hermanni project continues. In spring, the monitoring will resume and, with it, the hope that these tortoises will produce their first offspring. Now it is winter and it is time for the tortoises to sleep.