Scientific Name: Testudo graeca
Spur-thighed tortoises from the colder parts of Europe are known to hibernate during winter. Just before they’re ready to hibernate, they put on extra fat and burrow to below the frost line. During hibernation, their metabolism slows, they barely move and they don’t eat or drink. Often they’ll come out of hibernation early if the temperature warms up and in warmer areas, such as Africa, they don’t hibernate at all.
They may be short but spur-thighed tortoises live for a long time, usually 70-100 years! There are some 20 subspecies of spur thighed tortoise, but they all have one thing in common, a spur on their thighs. The turtles typically grow to 20 centimetres long and have a rectangular carapace (shell). The carapace colour varies according to the region, from a golden brown to a dark brown. Darker markings on the shell range from blotches to flecks. The tortoise is listed as vulnerable and this is largely due to people illegally collecting the tortoise for the pet trade.
Spur-thighed tortoises are found around the Mediterranean, from Spain to Turkey in Europe, and across northern Africa into Iran and Iraq. They favour dry forests and semi-arid scrubland, though they are found in a variety of conditions. Often they live in closely packed groups as they are peaceful tortoises, except when males compete with each other prior to mating.
Like many tortoises, the spur-thighed tortoise is a vegetarian, eating grasses, leafy plants and occasionally berries and fruit.
Mating usually occurs in spring. Males that have hibernated over winter start looking for females as soon as they come out of their torpor. Females can lay several clutches a year, each with 1-12 eggs. These are buried, sometimes in deeper nests and other times in shallow depressions with a thin covering of soil, depending on the area. Hatchlings emerge 80 days later.