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Corsica, the island of the Hermann tortoises


The island of Corsica is often referred to as the most diverse in the Mediterranean. As an old Sardinia fan, I am abstaining here. Indeed, Corsica has preserved a unique nature. A largely untouched coastline and impressive, extensive mountain landscapes, pure wilderness that has unfortunately become rare in the Mediterranean region.

Corsica is a mountain range in the sea. Extremely green with extensive forest areas in the interior and seemingly endless with ancient stone and cork oak forests interspersed with macchia areas. The macchia often extends directly from the sea to the adjacent mountainous region until it is finally displaced by the stone and cork oak forests and ultimately by the dark forest areas. Over half of the island is surely covered with overgrown maquis. A good basic requirement for the life of the turtle.

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The largest part of the very bay-rich coast is rocky and steeply sloping. Hills and mountains reach right up to the shore. Only in the area of brooks and rivers that flow into the sea are there smaller plains. Practically in every bay there is a sand or pebble beach with very alternating and often very bright colors, usually also very remote. Only on the east coast does a relatively narrow, up to 10 km wide plain extend over a length of almost 100 kilometers from Bastia to Solenzara. There are several larger standing bodies of water (étangs) which are usually only separated from the sea by a narrow sand dam.

So far, Corsica has actually been spared from mass tourism. Corsica vacationers are mainly looking for active and camping holidays. For this reason there are only a few “bed castles” and most of the hotels are small and family-owned. Admittedly, almost all the cities and towns by the sea are transformed into lively seaside resorts during the holiday months and the port cities are extremely lively. However, you can still find dreamy fishing villages and, a little away from the coastal region, wild, romantic mountain villages that have retained their originality to this day.

In contrast to the neighboring island of Sardinia, the only tortoise species on Corsica is the western subspecies of the Greek tortoise Testudo hermanni hermanni . In France, Hermann's tortoise, also known as Hermann's tortoise.
The Corsican Hermann tortoises hardly differ from their southern French, Sardinian and Sicilian conspecifics.
In my opinion, it is practically impossible to assign individual animals to a certain population based on their appearance alone. For this reason I will not give a description of the Corsican Hermann tortoise at this point. In any case, these descriptions only concern the respective individual animal or several close relatives from a population and regularly do not allow any further conclusions to be drawn about the actual origin. Take a look at the small selection of pictures and form your own judgment.

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Contrary to many reports, the distribution area of Testudo hermanni hermanni in Corsica as well as in Sardinia extends to practically all suitable, warmer areas of land with dense vegetation on the entire island. In the main, these are all flat landscapes and valleys close to the sea up to a maximum of 15 km into the country. Only the extremely mountainous regions from south of the Calanche to south of Calvi, including the Punta de la Revelata, are free of natural occurrences.

Today, however, there are no more tortoises in the dessert des Agriates and at Cap Corse, apart from a small occurrence. In the interior of the country there are only a few distribution areas with smaller populations at altitudes up to a maximum of 300 meters, very rarely up to 400 meters. Even these populations in the interior of Corsica are nowhere more than 35 km from the sea.
The main distribution areas of the Hermanns tortoise are today in the plain in the east and on the southern half of the island. The densest occurrences are located directly in the coastal areas in two different habitats. On the one hand in the areas directly adjacent to the beaches, often only covered with individual trees such as cork oaks, bushes, rock roses and tufts of grass, which are often separated from cultivated areas by rows of trees.
On the other hand, in the flat, gently sloping areas between the sea and the chain of hills overgrown with dense, almost impenetrable macchia.
Due to the very sandy soils, the sometimes surprisingly narrow strips near the beach are hardly usable for agriculture. Even grazing hardly takes place here. Bathing tourism only romps directly by the sea, so that the areas adjacent to the beaches are regularly fallow and, if at all, can only be entered on the specified paths. Inland, these strips are either bordered by more or less narrow forests or go directly into cultivated areas.

These more close strips are designated as nature reserves in many places.


The hilly landscapes overgrown with macchia or with low cork and holm oak forests have always not been used for agriculture in Corsica and are therefore largely overgrown to such an extent that they can often only be entered on well-trodden animal paths. The exertions are then rewarded again and again with clearings where turtles can be observed.


We have regularly found turtles of all ages, especially hatchlings, young turtles and typical egg-laying areas, so that for the most part a functioning population dynamic can still be assumed.

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Fortunately for nature and, of course, for the benefit of the turtles, Corsica has at least so far been spared the sustained construction boom in other Mediterranean countries.

Nevertheless, as in Spain, an increase in construction activity has recently been observed, especially in macchia hills near the sea. Of course, this means considerable restrictions for the turtles living there and, for some animals, direct death. However, as is often the case elsewhere, this is not the end of the entire population because there is still enough space in the surrounding area, at least for the time being, for the population to continue.


In the macchia that was cleared for a holiday complex that was already under construction, I found the remains of a run over turtle in a wheel loader track.

By far the greatest danger in Corsica comes from the overwhelming wild boars and countless feral domestic pigs. In most turtle areas, open macchia areas are downright plowed. Remains of turtles apparently eaten by the pigs can be found again and again in areas with still intact populations.

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