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What Is a Mediterranean Tortoise?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2016
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The Mediterranean tortoise is a species native to the coastal regions of France, Italy, Greece, Eastern Europe, and Northern Africa. These tortoises are commonly kept as pets in Europe, especially in Britain. Most species of Mediterranean tortoise, including Hermann's tortoise and the spur-thighed tortoise, are endangered species and can usually be commercially traded only by licensed breeders who keep a captive breeding stock. They can grow to average lengths of 8 to 9 inches (16 to 20 centimeters), with the females of most species growing larger than the males. When correctly cared for, they can live as long as 100 years.

Most experts recommend keeping the Mediterranean tortoise in an outdoor enclosure if possible, since these reptiles generally need plenty of room for exercise. An outdoor habitat that offers the tortoise protection from predators, and prevents its escape, is typically considered ideal. The habitat should generally be about 5 feet long (1.52 meters) and 10 feet wide (3.05 meters). The walls of the habitat should be between 12 and 18 inches (30.5 to 45.7 centimeters) tall, and should extend for at least 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) below the surface of the ground, to prevent the tortoise from digging an escape tunnel.

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The habitat should contain an enclosed area where the tortoise can hide itself. The tortoise also will need a recessed water dish no more than 4 inches (10 centimeters) deep. Foliage and sand can help make the environment more stimulating for the tortoise.

These pet tortoises will usually hibernate during the colder months of the year. Enthusiasts are normally advised to avoid feeding a Mediterranean tortoise for about six weeks before it goes into hibernation in late autumn. Once the tortoise goes into hibernation, it can be placed in a box half-filled with dead leaves or strips of paper.

This box is typically then placed inside an outer box, which should generally be proofed against invasion by predators, particularly rodents. The hibernation box should ideally be kept at temperatures between 39.2° and 46.4° Fahrenheit (4° to 8° Celsius) throughout the winter, or until hibernation is complete. Tortoises who wake up early should usually be kept in a warmer indoor environment for the remainder of the cold season.

In the wild, the Mediterranean tortoise eats mostly leaves. A proper diet is considered essential to the reptile's health. Many common garden plants, such as clover, dandelion, plantains, and chickweed are good food for the Mediterranean tortoise. Salad greens, or small amounts of raw fruit and vegetables, may be substituted when wild greens are unavailable. These reptiles typically benefit from the addition of a calcium supplement to their food, two or three times weekly.

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