For more 40 years the author has kept and bred tortoises, especially Testudo hermanni boettger i as reported here.
The outdoor enclosure has the shape of a 80² metre. A 35 cm high brick wall prevents tortoises from escaping. Paving slabs (50 x 50 cm) are placed vertically around the base of the wall. A small house in the enclosure is used during the night, during hibernation and in cold weather. There are two heat cables of 75 watts in the house. Further, the enclosure is equipped with few basking lamps of 120 watts. All heating is controlled by thermostats. The cables are switched on when the temperature ranges from 10-15ºC. Outside the lamps are switched on from 15-20ºC.
The enclosure has a diverse vegetation of Mediterranean plants, including figs, real olive tree from Greece and cacti though it is hard to prevent the tortoises from eating them.
The tortoises are active outdoor from April to October.
During summer the vast majority of the food consists of various weeds such as dandelion, sow thistle, goutweed, plantain, clover and stinging nettle. Vine leaves are relished. Otherwise vegetables for human consumption are used.
The author has observed that his tortoises eat faeces from other tortoises. In Greece and Turkey he has observed them eating faeces from goats, sheep and donkeys.
The indoor terrarium measures 3.5 x 2.5 m.
Nearly all-European tortoises prepare themselves for hibernation as winter approaches as they eat less and sleep more. It is recommended only to hibernate tortoises when you are familiar with keeping them in captivity. It is important that they are in a good condition and have already built up fat reserves. Throughout the year the tortoises are inspected and weighed monthly; during the hibernation they may lose ca. 10% weight.
For two weeks the tortoises are prepared for their hibernation without food, but with access to water, heating and lighting. Hibernation takes place in dried leaves at 4-8ºC. It is essential that the hibernaculum is frost-free.
The author has experienced that hibernation is not absolutely essential for captive reproduction. However, it is likely that they will benefit from a hibernation in the long run.
Mating and the process of egg-laying is described in detail.
If a female becomes unusually active, patrolling perimeters, it may be due to egg retention, in which case you should consult a vet having experience of reptile diseases.
Eggs are incubated at 29.5-31.5ºC and approx. 65-80 % relative humidity (never below 60%). Incubation is completed after 8-12 weeks (average 70.8 days, range 48-103 days). Eggs of one clutch exposed to identical conditions may have very different incubation times; often they will differ by 6-8 days, but a difference of 28 days has been observed.
On average hatchlings have measured (straight carapace length) 35.4 mm (range 30-40 mm) and weighed 14.2 grammes (range 8-20 grammes).
Among the juveniles some mortality has been noticed, for unknown reasons. However, following Artner (1998) they are now offered an area with a very high humidity (near wet) which may result in a smooth carapace rather than a »lumpy« one. 11 young hatched in November/December 1998 have been held very successfully under these conditions, so far without any mortality. They remain in this area very often.
The growth of healthy young can be very variable. Some young at 2 years may be 150 mm and weigh 545 grammes. But one young at 4 years of 122 mm and 350 grammes has been observed.
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