Mediterranean Spur-thighed Tortoise

Mediterranean Spur-thighed Tortoise / Testudo graeca / سلحفاة مهمازية الورك

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Status: Common

The Mediterranean Spur-thighed Tortoise belongs to the Testudinidae family in the Chelonia (turtles, terrapins and tortoises) order. It is the only native terrestrial tortoise present in Palestine, reaching a maximum carapace (shell) length of 26 cm. The Mediterranean Spur-thighed Tortoise is usually greenish, yellowish or olive in color, with dark blotches and borders on the scales of its shell (carapace). There is geographic variation in the coloration and the markings on its body, and differences between populations living in different habitats are often seen. Its name is derived from the fact that there are "spurs" on the backs of their thighs. It is active during day (diurnal), seen almost year-round except during the dry summer months, when it aestivates (hides and is not active). The Mediterranean Spur-thighed Tortoise is vegetarian, its diet consists of the annual plants, foliage of perennial shrubs, and on many occasions also flowers and fruits of wild plants. It is oviparous (the young hatch from eggs), hatchlings usually appear during late summer and early autumn. Its eggs are almost circular, and after hatching remnants of the brittle shells are often found in the field. Unfortunately, the Mediterranean Spur-thighed Tortoise is also threatened by collection for captive husbandry and for the pet trade. It is of utmost importance to educate the general public against collecting, buying, selling or keeping in captivity of these magnificent creatures, to make sure future generations continue to see them in nature. Captive specimens usually die because of improper husbandry. The Mediterranean Spur-thighed Tortoise inhabits southern Europe, Turkey and parts of the Middle East.

Conservation status – vulnerable (VU).

In Palestine – Common, in most Mediterranean and semi-arid ("semi-desert") habitats.

Sites: Umm at-Tut, Beitillu, Wadi Al-Quff nature reserves