Following a conference in 2017 that confirmed the potential to re-introduce the Hermann’s Tortoise species back into Gibraltar, six adult individuals, three males and three females, have been released at Parson’s Lodge, part of the Gibraltar National Park, this month as a rewilding project that attempts to restore this species to Gibraltar. Wild rabbits and Iberian water frogs were also released, in a landmark event in the history of wildlife conservation in Gibraltar.
Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni) is a small to medium-sized species of tortoise belonging to the family Testudinidae and native to the Mediterranean regions of southern Europe. There are two recognised subspecies: the western Hermann’s tortoise (T. h. hermanni) and the eastern Hermann’s tortoise (T. h. boettgeri).
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.
This species is in significant decline due to widespread habitat loss across much of its range, particularly in the western regions. As a result, its conservation status has been listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, though it is close to meeting the criteria for Vulnerable status.
Hermann’s tortoise was a natural species on the Rock, as evidenced by numerous finds of their remains in Pleistocene deposits at Gorham’s and Vanguard Caves and in the recently named Neanderthals’ Grotto. It is extinct on the Rock.