La tortuga mediterránea
Testudo hermanni hermanni - on the Balearic Island of Menorca
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This Article is a summarised account of our findings while searching for "La tortuga mediterránea" - the Herman's tortoise (testudo hermanni hermanni).

To gather confirmation of La tortuga mediterránea and its success on the Balearic Island of Menorca, Record all reptile families found on the Island, Information to be taken for "Reptile Database" - Size, Weight, Location Lat/Long, Altitude, Temperature, Humidity, Surrounding habitat - where possible.


Mapping, Planning and Equipment

Equipment: First Aid Kit, Trekking GPS, Altimeter, Thermometer, Hygrometer, Compass, Maps, Survival Knife, Species Reference Material, Data Recording Forms, Cameras, Kitchen Sink... Plus...

Mapping and planning are crucial many field trips have failed and some to fatal consequences without enough preparation the trip is destined for failure.

Focusing on the pitfalls / dangers you or your colleagues may encounter, From the navigation of the landscape to the environment you will endure, From emergency procedures to familiarisation of the local laws .. and always respect the communities, their land and their beliefs.


 Binigaus Vell 


39 56 N

04 02 E

30 minutes east of Cap d'Artrutx to the centre of the Island we arrived just outside Es Migjorn Gran and intent on reaching Cova de's Coloms - Caves, we set off down a narrow walled in track, As with much of the Island the agricultural areas play a significant part on the landscape and on such a rocky Island its easy to see why stone walls are everywhere.

These walls may produce obstacle's for tortoises but they do however provide habitats for various other reptile families and it wasn't too long before we spotted a few, facing the rising sun Tarentola mauritanica - Moorish Gecko's were running for cover when they noticed us approaching, One juvenile attempted to take cover between some rocks that were stacked too close together and with his rear legs still in view he decided to lure us away by mimicking a worm like insect using his vividly stripped tail.

Approximately 20 minutes further along the track we found the entrance down to "Cova de's Coloms" marked by the remains of an old fallen sign ... not a tortoise in sight.


 Cova d'es Coloms 


39 55 N

04 02 E

As soon as we entered the area immediately we spotted the Podarcis pityusensis - Ibiza Wall Lizard but as the path became steeper, more over grown and cooler we failed to spot any further lizards.

10 minutes walking down the rocks, we came to a clearing on the edge of cliffs which produced a valley down to San Aldeodato beach, hopping across the rocky foot path we headed up towards the cavern.

Finally reaching the cavern it was well worth the trek not only from the spectacle of this natural wonder but also the views up high looking over the surrounding cliffs, needless to say being this far up on rocks with little grazing matter we didn't find any tortoise's, maybe tomorrow.

Cova de's Coloms - Landscape


 Cap d'Artrutx 


39 55 N

03 49 E

On the south west tip of the Island is Cap d'Artrux where we spent a great deal of time in the field, majority of this area has recently or is in the process of becoming building ground presumably for tourism such as hotels, restaurants, bars, and more and more streets of villas (villa ville), Although we may consider the destruction of animal habitat, We also need to remember tourism plays an important role upon such a small Islands economy.

Amongst all this human hustle / bustle lies pockets of derelict land that sadly tends to be used for dumping old building materials, rubble and waste. But all is not lost as this still provides refuge for some more of Menorca's reptile groups one of which was numerous Tarentola mauritanica - Moorish Gecko

We even found egg shells and infertile eggs of the Moorish Gecko's showing their breeding success in the area.

A stones! throw away surrounding all these isolated chunks of scrub land are the human dwellings (villa ville), as previously mentioned ... but again not entirely without their own story to tell, Our next reptile encountered seemed to be enjoying this luxurious landscape and true to their names the wall lizards, Podarcis pityusensis - Ibiza Wall Lizard and Podarcis sicula - Italian Wall Lizard could be found occupying many of the walls as individual territories, In the afternoon along the west facing stone walls they could be found basking in the sun ducking for cover at lightening speed as we approached.

We also found this fascinating insect a form of Praying Mantis after we upturned a number of rocks that had their empty egg cases attached. 

Guess what, yep no tortoise. 


 Illa d'en Colom 


39 57 N

14 16 E

After around an hour drive we arrived at Es Grau on the east coast ~7k north of Maó (as the crow flies).
This is a small fishing village consisting of but not only a few houses tiny streets and a bay, We had previously heard that a scheduled boat trip went around to the Island Illa d'en Colom which tourists were taking in order to access the remote beaches, hoping this could be our ticket to get over too find the endemic Podarcis lilfordi - Lilfords Wall Lizard ... as we headed down to the boats we asked one of the skippers who had just returned from a dive about getting over to the Island, He informed us that the boat trips out to the Island had been stopped, and he suggested asking a few of the fishermen if they could drop us off but not forgetting to secure a way back - its a long swim one we wouldn't want to undertake with all our gear, We set off around the waters edge to ask but to no avail, maybe it was just too late in the day to go out fishing.

Undeterred we set off around the village and down to the beach, We found a local man that had boats for hire, In broken conversation we explained as best we could of our intent to get across to the Island to see the lizards, He told us he did have a motorised boat but it was already out on hire and wouldn't be back until the end of the day... Looking around we spotted row, pedal and sail boats and we suggested to the owner that we hire one of these to get out to the Island - he was probably thinking 'silly English man you'll never make it' - surprisingly he didn't want us to sign our lives away before we got aboard!

All aboard and courageous (or crazy) we set off, not long into this endurance test / boat trip we discovered that the bar that was supposed to steers the boat was coming away from the boat in our hands which meant it took some time to get to grips with the steering and what seemed like an eternity between selecting your course and finally moving along that path with the possibility of wading across several other random paths in between - needless to say we encountered a few not so calm moments every time we were headed for rocks, moored boats, moving boats, and the odd water skier hanging onto the back!

Although exhausted but all in one piece, we were very happy to finally arrive, dry land was much appreciated... Even though we knew we had to go through all this again to get back it didn't seem to matter the lure of the lizard was far to great to let it worry us right now.

We found a shallow bay to pull the boat ashore and immediately spotted plenty of lizards that came to investigate us. We climbed up several feet along a south facing stone face and sat still.

Within seconds an inquisitive Podarcis lilfordi -Lilfords Wall Lizard came from the foliage to find if we had food, He eventually resorted to tasting toes when he realised that weren't there to feed him.

Several of the Islands have signs informing visitors not to feed these lizards and its easy to see why, We didn't see one of these signs here, However we did see the sign which stated their protection.. which translated read something like this... "On this Island lives a Endemic Species and Protected by Law, Its capture or death is punishable by Conservation Law 4. 1989." - and rightly so.

The right steps are being taken and public education is a key factor, focusing on the serious consequences actions can have, it was a shame to see the lizards getting used to man, But hopefully the cancelled boat trips will make this Island inaccessible once again and allow the lizards to forage and act naturally.

 Tortoise? Nope, not a sausage, does anyone remember what they look like ?




39 56 N

14 14 E

S'Albufera National Park is situated on the east of the Island north of Maó, We arrived here early afternoon on our final day, it was becoming our last chance of finding "tortuga".

Always optimistic we set off on foot in search and immediately we found one ... well the remains of one... just to the edge of a track lay an eroded damaged carcass.

The positive from this would be we knew they must be in the area but these remains had been here for sometime in fact they looked as if they had been placed there... maybe so show tourists? who knows.

Now on red alert we set off down a gravel track towards the water... as we travelled around the perimeter of the lake we saw very few reptiles, the odd Tarentola mauritanica - Moorish Gecko and Podarcis sicula - Italian Wall Lizard inhabiting the ruins of a building.

Up and down the banks we searched but to no avail by this time it was late afternoon and we decided to call it a day and headed back to the car loaded up one last check but still not a "tortuga" in site it was now time to admit defeat as we were due to board the plane home first thing in the morning.

A little deflated we started the drive back, Just before leaving S'Albufera National Park as the track became flat we pulled over for 10 minutes before getting out on the open road, When we heard dry foliage being trampled underfoot deep in an isolated patch of wild plants wondering what this huge sounding beastie would look like we started pulling back the grasses in order to locate this sound when Eureka! 

We were confronted by a "tortuga", A vividly coloured adult male Testudo hermanni hermanni... 


La tortuga mediterránea - Testudo hermanni hermanni



Although not as many tortoise encounters as we would have liked but that's just they way it goes, We did however hear several reports to suggest tortuga were common place as they could be found in almost every ones garden but these weren't daily sightings, Possibly some specimens were restricted to specific areas, The impenetrable walls would account for these animals resurfacing again and again.

All being equal the trip was a complete success and very rewarding with lots of reptile activity.
Elated to say the least in our final hour, La tortuga mediterránea... Mission accomplished!


Disclaimer - "Important Notice"

Do not attempt any activity based on reading this article, to do so could put yourself and others at risk.
The article here is not intended to teach Survival skills, Bush Craft, Extreme Outdoor activities, Tracking or Navigation techniques - Without the right knowledge, skills and equipment the wilds can be a dangerous place. 


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