Hermann’s tortoise: a heritage for Calabria to be preserved

Hermann’s tortoise: a heritage for Calabria to be preserved
Hermann’s tortoise: a heritage for Calabria to be preserved
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The intra-regional morphological divergence of the Calabrian populations of the Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni subsp. Hermanni) was the subject of a scientific contribution (Poster) at the XIV National Congress of the Societas Herpetologica Italica (Turin, 13-17 September 2022), a scientific association promotes basic and applied herpetological research, the dissemination of knowledge on herpetofauna and the protection of amphibians and reptiles and their habitats.
Testudo hermanni hermanni, better known as the common tortoise, is widespread in Western Europe and is present in Peninsular Italy and the Islands, in the South of France (including Corsica) and in the North East of Spain (including the Balearics). The Italian populations represent over 90% of the subspecies, and this data highlights the role, the importance as well as the enormous responsibility that Italy has towards the world community as regards the conservation of the subspecies, included in Appendix II of the Washington Convention (CITES), which entered into force in Italy in 1980, born precisely from the need to control and safeguard animal and plant species in danger of extinction or potentially threatened.
In Calabria the tortoise is present with several nuclei distributed discontinuously on the regional territory: most of them are concentrated in the central-northern portion, while a smaller, and above all isolated, nucleus is located in the southern portion, near the massif. of the Aspromonte.
Since 2015, the Calabrian populations of Hermann’s tortoise have been studied by the Department of Biology, Ecology and Earth Sciences of the University of Calabria and the Natural History Museum of the University of Florence, supported by the enthusiast, as well as scholar, Rocco Gatto who in his book “Testudo hermanni hermanni” (2012) already spoke of the unique characteristics of the Aspromonte nucleus.
These studies have made it possible to discover so far that the Calabrian populations of Hermann’s tortoise are unique, in the European framework, from a genetic point of view and, among these, the Aspromonte nucleus records further uniqueness, both from a genetic and morphological point of view. The deepening of the research will allow us to definitively reveal the value of these unique animals that have populated the countryside of our Region for millennia.
Considering the results of the studies, it is mandatory to appeal to the competent authorities so that appropriate protection and conservation measures are put in place, considering that the Hermann tortoise populations in Calabria are threatened by many factors including: poaching, both small-scale (premises that for pleasure take one or more tortoises to keep them at home) and large-scale (there is a real black market of tortoises that are sold with large numbers even overseas), the fires, now too recurrent, devastate hectares habitat where tortoises die, the extreme spread of wild boar, which preys on nests, young, kills adults and alters the living environments of tortoises. These and other threats have rarefied the Calabrian populations of Testudo hermanni, in particular the Aspromontana population.
It is therefore essential to plan and implement appropriate conservation measures to preserve this important and unique regional wildlife heritage and of the Aspromonte in particular.

The article is in Italian


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Tags: Hermanns tortoise heritage Calabria preserved

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