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Destiny Tuscany

The fate of the tortoises still living in the wild in Tuscany.

Recorded in April 2003


Same direction of view in October 2004

There are very few halfway intact turtle populations left in Tuscany. Most of the turtles that are discovered more or less by chance are often only individual remaining animals that have not yet been directly killed in the ongoing destruction of their original habitat. It is only a matter of time until these individual animals are slain by humans, run over, killed by a plow or a fire or taken away by tourists. If the turtles escape these dangers, they will be killed in the medium term by artificial fertilizers and pesticides, either directly or indirectly through the food they eat. In the intensely agricultural areas, the original barren forage plants are no longer sufficiently available and the turtles feed on what the fields offer. Cultivated plants are absolutely unsuitable as food for tortoises.

I read again and again on the “Internet” that turtles occasionally eat a tomato, cucumber, melon or even a peach in their natural habitat.

I have never seen tomato, cucumber and melon plants or even a peach tree in any original turtle habitat. -Just as food for thought-

For many years I have been coming to Tuscany several times a year to do my field research there, mainly in three relatively intact populations.

One of these populations lives secluded in a smaller, sparse hardwood forest with open, sun-drenched clearings. Two more in remote valleys covered with wild maquis which have not yet been used for agricultural land.

Also in October 2004 I wanted to visit the two turtle populations living in the valleys and was shocked to find that one of these habitats no longer exists.

It was burned and completely destroyed to create arable land. The entire turtle population of at least 3,000 animals has been destroyed along with the vegetation.

I want to show you a few pictures of this habitat before and after this disaster. The turtle population destroyed in this habitat was one of the last large intact local populations in Tuscany and is irretrievably lost. Due to the dry wood accumulating in the maquis and the dense bush and tree population, the heat was so high that even turtles buried in the ground were killed. Despite an intensive search, I have not been able to discover any signs of life from turtles. Most of the turtles are completely burned. Sometimes you could only find a few burned bone fragments. Dead turtles with relatively undamaged shells were only found in areas with previously mainly low scrub and grass cover. 

The habitat was in southern Tuscany in an idyllic lonely valley in which nature until recently held its own against agriculture. The area is sparsely populated. Between the villages, which are far apart, there are individual podiums (repatriate farms which are mostly run by families.)

The approximately 150 hectare valley is completely enclosed by the hills that characterize the Tuscan landscape and has certainly hardly changed in its originality for centuries. The surrounding hills are forested or used as arable land and intensively cultivated. At least twice a year these fields are plowed up to a depth of 80 cm with huge share plows, which are pulled behind tractors with chain drive.

The vegetation of this remote valley consisted of more or less high, partly very dense macchia and extensive areas with low grass, grasses, hay and bushes.

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Before the slash and burn, an idyllic turtle paradise that was still original for "centuries".

The flared valley.

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Look to the left,

straight ahead, -the first fields are already created-

 and look to the right.

The remaining pictures do not require any comment.

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