Hermanni Tortoise Care Sheet
These Tortoises are Mediterranean and DO Hibernate.
Female Hermanni enjoying herself in the Sun.
Testudo Hermanni Hermanni
These tortoises are from the western race from northern Spain, southern France, northeast Italy and some of the Islands in the western Mediterranean. They are coloured black and sandy patterned on the carapace, which tends to be a higher dome than the Boettgeri. They are found in woods, scrubland, heath land, grassland and farmland. They have a large horny scale or nail on the end of their tail. This one tends to be smaller than the Hermanni Boettgeri.
Testudo Hermanni Boettgeri
These tortoises are from the eastern race from southern Italy, Albania, Greece, Yugoslavia and the Balkans. They are coloured black and sandy patterned on the carapace, which is not as domed as the hermanni hermanni. They are found in woods, shrubland, heath land, grassland and farmland. They have a large horny scale or nail on the end of the tail. This one tends to be larger than the hemanni hermanni.
Hermann's are very active tortoises. The males need to be kept separate from the females or another male as they can get aggressive, and if with a female he will keep worrying her and will probably damage her or cause infection of the tail/cloaca. You must also be sure that any fencing is high enough to keep them in, as they are very good climbers. We know of one that climbed between a fence and a climbing rose and ended up flipping over into the next garden, this is how clever they can be.
Male or Female?
The male Hermanni has a long tail that goes to one side, where the female has a short tail. You may not be able to sex them for the first 4 years.
Size and Age
Hermanni tortoises are a small to medium tortoise. It seems that they can live to well over 100 years of age. You need to be prepared for this as you may need to pass your tortoise down the generations or you may need to find a new home eventually. A Tortoise Organization may be the best contact.
This should be as large as possible and needs to be able to provide a warm indoor area for them for most of the year apart from hibernation time. A good size area is 1.5metres x 2.5metres for an adult. They do seem to spend most of the colder weather indoors so this has to be a suitable size and the temperature must be right. To get this right you will probably have to use heaters, reflector spot bulbs positioned so that the floor underneath reaches 30C, and also UV heat bulbs in part of the shed, this provides D3. This gives your tortoise a wide range of different temperatures. They need to have a good strong bright light with the correct temperatures to encourage them to feed well. The indoor temperature should have a gradient from 20-30C for approx 12 hours a day. The night temperatures must not fall below 15C but you must have the spot lights on, this is where the heaters can be set to come on if the temperatures drop and go off if the temperatures rise too much.
These tortoises need an area that is safe and enclosed, a good size of 5metres x 9metres is recommended for one. These tortoises must have as much room as possible as they need to exercise to keep their muscles strong. It must have a weedy area to graze and a dry sandy area, 50/50 Loam/Play pit Sand to give them all options. It must be well drained and preferably in the sun, a south facing garden is perfect. They also need safe Shrubs that they can hide under if it gets too hot. Pampas grasses and Hebe shrubs are very good. Hard area such as slabs will help to keep their nails the correct length. This area must be free of pesticides and weed killers etc as they will harm and may kill your tortoise.
This should be around your garden area making it safe and escape proof. It must be a solid fence and about 2 metres high so that people outside of the garden cannot see the tortoise.
If you need to fence off part of your garden for your tortoise then you could do this with 40cm high fencing.
Some of us get this made from a local fencing company and it works.
These tortoises are very clever that can climb if given the chance, so please make sure that they are safe and secure.
Hermann's like all tortoises must have water available to drink. You must be able to keep the water clean and changed every day for them, they may use it regularly. We use sunken plant pot saucers which we keep clean and is safe for them to get in and out off. But make sure it is not a deep one. These tortoises cannot swim.
A Natural diet of foods needs to be provided which is high in fibre, low grain, low protein and low carbohydrates. These foods, being more natural, take a longer time to digest which is much better for them. Always feed food that you have put into their area on a hard surface with their additives. 75% of their diet should be weeds and wild flowers. DO NOT give your tortoise the commercially dried pellet foods, they do not get these in the wild and feeding your tortoise these will cause severe health problems. There is a list of good plants on the feeding page and also a list of poisonous plants so that you can check if yours is safe.
The only dried food that we suggest as an addition to their diet is the Pre Alpin which is a dried selection of grasses and weeds with no additives. This must be used as an addition to their diet though and not given just on its own. This is available from Linda Jones (tortoiselady.co.uk)
Hermanni must have Calcium Carbonate so this needs to be provided on all of their food, they need this to grow and to keep their bones strong. Sprinkle Calcium Carbonate on all of the food every day and also add a pinch of Nutrobal once a week for adults and every other day for juveniles. You can also put cuttlefish into their area, some tortoises will eat it and some will not. It will also help keep their beaks trimmed.
Soak your tortoise each week in warm water making sure that it can get its head out of the water, so that it will not drown. Then take this opportunity to wash the carapace and plastron with antibacterial hand wash, and also to check your tortoise to make sure that everything is okay. The limbs and face should be clean and with no cuts etc. eyes should be dark and shiny, nose clean and dry, mouth clean and pink with no sign of mouth rot. Scutes should not be loose and the plastron and carapace should have no damage. Weigh your tortoise and keep records of these as they can be very useful (see fingerprinting)
Injuries that can happen
- Dogs love to chew tortoises because they are a Calcium Bone, so never leave them together alone.
- Lawn mowers and vehicles can cause serious injury.
- Other tortoises can get very aggressive causing damage like bites and knocks.
- Children can often drop tortoises and this will damage / kill them.
- Sharp objects left lying around can injure them or they may get stuck in them.
Bad things that can cause problems
- Lack of exercise leads to muscular problems and must be avoided.
- Kitchen food and fruit will cause diarrhoea and digestive problems. Instead of the proper diet taking approx 3 weeks to digest, these bad foods can take only 1 week to digest which is much too fast and bad for them.
- NO Cat or Dog food as this it too high in protein and as well as being bad for them it will also lead to shell deformities, obesity and kidney disease.
- High humidity, dampness and cold conditions should be avoided to prevent RNS.
- Never add one species with another species, as they all need different husbandry, behave in different ways and can pass on different viruses etc.
- Never put another tortoise with yours without quarantining first for 18 months.
- Fruit is not eaten in large amounts in the wild and it raises the lactic acid levels, which causes internal parasites.
- Avoid any foods that contain oxalic acid as this binds the calcium so that it cannot be used by the body eg. peas and beans.
- Hermann's are prone to pyramiding so you need to get the husbandry, feeding, temperatures and additives right.
- Avoid Brassicas as they contain Oxalic Acid and cause goitre problems.
- Do NOT allow your vet to give your tortoise a vitamin injection especially before hibernation. They should not need it if their husbandry, foods and supplements correct.
- Garden Ponds must be covered as these tortoises cannot swim and they will drown.
- DO NOT drill a hole through the shell this causes extreme pain and / or infection.
Hermann's mature at approx 15yrs in the wild, but they may need to be 6-8yrs in captivity. They can have aprox2-12 eggs per clutch and they may have 2 clutches per year. They will also need to have a laying area of mixed 50/50 loam/play pit sand in a warm area and preferably in the sun. They will dig to about 7-9cms. You really need to do a lot of research before going down this avenue and to get it right.
Juveniles or young hermanni need special treatment as they will eat and eat if given the chance, which is not correct. They also should not be kept in a vivarium after 12 months of age. They should be reared in a tortoise table which has the basking lamp etc. attached. To find out more about bringing up young Hermann's then please contact us.
A simple injury can be treated with diluted betadine (from the chemist) and cleaned. Cover with a plaster and keep clean. If the injury is bad then you need to get to a Tortoise Vet.
If you suspect that your tortoise is ill in any way, then you must get it to a Tortoise Vet immediately.
These tortoises must hibernate and the best way to learn this is to come to our Hibernation demonstrations and talk which we do at our Information day. The best way to hibernate is the fridge method as you can control this better than any of the other methods. We would not recommend hibernating a tortoise for the first year that you own it and definitely NOT if it has been, or is ill.
A list of good foods is on the feeding page, and there is also a list of poisonous plants so that you can check what you have in your garden.