La tortuga mediterránea
Testudo hermanni hermanni -
on the Balearic Island of Menorca
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
mediterránea and its success on the Balearic Island of Menorca,
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...
and planning are crucial many field trips have failed and some to fatal
consequences without enough preparation the trip is destined for failure.
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.
39 56 N
04 02 E
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.
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
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
even found egg shells and infertile eggs of the Moorish Gecko's showing
their breeding success in the area.
stones! throw away surrounding all these isolated chunks of scrub
land are the human dwellings (villa ville), as previously mentioned ... but
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
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.
also found this fascinating insect a form of Praying
Mantis after we upturned a number of rocks that had their empty egg
what, yep no tortoise.
39 57 N
14 16 E
an hour drive we arrived at Es Grau on the east coast ~7k north of
(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,
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
Nope, not a sausage, does anyone remember what they look like ?
39 56 N
14 14 E
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".
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.
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.
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.
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!
were confronted by a "tortuga", A vividly coloured adult
male Testudo hermanni hermanni...
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.
say the least in our final hour, La
tortuga mediterránea... Mission accomplished!
- "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