Common Tortoise

Testudo graeca


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Assessment info
Habitat and Ecology
Use and Trade
Conservation Actions


Scientific name

Testudo graeca


(Bonaparte, 1835)


Furculachelys nabeulensis Highfield, 1990; Testudo anamurensis Weissinger, 1987; Testudo antakyensis Perälä, 1996; Testudo armeniaca Chkhikvadze & Bakradze, 1991; Testudo buxtoni Boulenger, 1921; Testudo flavominimaralis Highfield & Martin, 1989 (nomen dubium; Testudo floweri Bodenheimer, 1935; Testudo graeca ssp. cyrenaica Pieh & Perälä, 2002; Testudo graeca ssp. soussensis Pieh, 2001; Testudo ibera Pallas, 1814; Testudo nikolskii Chkhikvadze & Bakradze, 1991; Testudo pallasi Chkhikvadze & Bakradze, 2002; Testudo perses Perälä, 2002; Testudo terrestris Forsskål, 1775; Testudo whitei Bennett in White, 1836; Testudo zarudnyi Nikolsky, 1896

Assessment info

IUCN Red List Category and Criteria

VU – Vulnerable, A3d; B1b(i,ii,iii)+2b(i,ii,iii)

Date assessed

November 2019


Arsovski, D.

Sterijovski, B.


Crnobrnja-Isailović, J.




Hofman, M.P.G.


The Spur-thighed Tortoise is not as well studied in North Macedonia as the Hermann’s tortoise. Nevertheless, it has a much more limited distribution range (AOO=1.140km2, EOO=12.576km2), and unlike the Hermann’s tortoise, the national populations are at one of the northern edges of their global distribution range. This implies that they are likely living in suboptimal conditions, particularly if we have in mind that they inhabit areas of modified-Mediterranean climate with a strong temperate influence (Lazarevski 1993). Personal observations during intense field trips demonstrated that most encountered individuals are in suboptimal shape – small individuals, suffering intense shell damage (burnt or broken off marginal scutes, holes in carapace, etc.), and individuals are infested with ticks almost without exception. These baseline impressions along with inferred continuing declines in quality of habitat due to intense agriculture and infrastructural development will likely result with a decline in area of occupancy of the species. Finally and most importantly, existing trade, particularly if it targets wild caught adults can have devastating effects on Spur-thighed Tortoise populations, as is the case with the Hermann’s tortoise (Nikolić et al. 2018). North Macedonia does export Spur-thighed Tortoises; they are bred in farms that, in the current lack of proper control, can easily be used as platforms to legally export illegally collected individuals (see Use and Trade section). Even in the lack of national life-history data on this species, it is a close relative of the Hermann’s tortoise allowing for insight to be extrapolated. Having in mind the Spur-thighed Tortoise’s more stenovalent status compared to its cousin, a 30% decline in the next 100 years can safely be inferred. These notions suggest the Vulnerable category for national Spur-thighed Tortoise populations. Conspecifics occur in neighboring Greece and Bulgaria, and a tiny population on the border with Serbia that is likely not a separate population from national populations living at and close to the border. Its presence in Albania is questionable (Mizsei et al. 2017). Greek and Bulgarian Spur-thighed tortoises communicate with national populations via the southeastern border range only along the valleys of rivers Vardar and Strumica. Nevertheless, the species is slow-moving and has small home ranges (Rouag et al. 2017). Habitat quality and thermal conditions in North Macedonia likely discourage Greek and Bulgarian propagules from dispersing north-east, and furthermore both neighboring populations likely face their own conservation threats (habitat degradation, traffic, etc.; e.g. it has been assessed as Endangered in Bulgaria in Beshkov [2015] despite a much larger distribution range), coming in the way of any regional rescue effects that would justify a category downlisting. In Europe and globally, this species has been assessed as Vulnerable.


Current population trend



National population trends of the Spur-thighed tortoise have not been assessed and are thus unknown. Nevertheless, intensive habitat degradation and being the target of some legal and illegal harvest suggest a decreasing population trend, and urge the inference of potential severe fragmentation or fluctuations in numbers of subpopulations.

Habitat and Ecology



Habitat and Ecology

Much more thermophilic than the Hermann’s tortoise, therefore with a preference for open habitats of small bush and shrub, degraded secondary growth habitats or sandy slopes, rather than forests. Can also be observed in, or near urban parks. Globally, mating occurs in spring and autumn, females laying up to a maximum of three clutches annually with up to eight eggs (Speybroeck et al. 2016).

Use and trade

Use and trade

Large numbers of animals are captive-bred by hobbyists and distributed within the hobbyist community. In North Macedonia animals are bred in tortoise farms. Currently three tortoise farms breed this species in the country. National import/export CITES reports ( from the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning report of 2.150 and 850 exported individuals in 2016 and 2017, respectively. These amounts add up to much less than what is reported for the Hermann’s tortoise, but nevertheless point out that even this species with a much more limited distribution, and likely smaller population sizes is under threat and likely subject to illegal and undocumented traffic. Due to the lack of need to mark farm-born animals, and the higher reported asking price of adult (>8 years old) individuals, farmers have high incentive to use their farms as platforms for the legal export of illegally collected animals from the wild.



The main threats are: loss of habitat due to agricultural expansion and intensification; agro-chemicals and other pollution impacts; urbanization and tourist infrastructure development; wildfires; collection for pet trade; genetic pollution; road mortality and illegal trafficking. In Macedonia over collection is likely the biggest threat, especially if we recognize that in the lack of strict control, legal tortoise-farms can easily be used as platforms that facilitate the export of wild-caught individuals.

All threats listed for this species are included in the “List of priority threats to biological diversity” in the “Strategy for biodiversity of Republic of North Macedonia” (Ministry of environment and physical planning, 2018).

Conservation actions

Conservation actions

It is listed on Annex I and II of the Bern Convention, Annex II and IV of the EU Habitats Directive and CITES Appendix II. It appears on the list of nationally protected wild species.



Sillero, N., Campos, J., Bonardi, A., Corti, C., Creemers, R., Crochet, P.-A., Crnobrnja-Isailović, J., Denoël, M., Ficetola, G.F., Gonçalves, J., Kuzmin, S., Lymberakis, P., de Pous, P., Rodríguez, A., Sindaco, R., Speybroeck, J., Toxopeus, B., Vieites, D.R., Vences, M. 2014. Updated distribution and biogeography of amphibians and reptiles of Europe. .p 1-31.

Particip .2017. ‘Strengthening the capacities for implementation of NATURA 2000’. MoEPP. Skopje . .p /.

Sterijovski, B., Tomović, L., Ajtić, R. 2014. Contribution to the knowledge of the Reptile fauna and diversity in FYR of Macedonia. .p 83–92.

Ministry of environment and physical planning. 2018. National biodiversity strategy and action plan : for the period 2018 – 2023. Ministry of environment and physical planning. Skopje. .p 183.

Speybroeck, J. Beuckema, W., Bok, B., Voort, J.V.D. 2016. Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc London . .p /.

Melovski, Lj., Markoski, B., Hristovski, S., Jovanovska, D., Anastasovski, V., Klincharov, S., Velevski, M., Velkovski, N., Trendafilov, A., Matevski, V., Kostadinovski, M., Karadelev, M., Levkov, Z., Kolchakovski, D. 2013. Regional division of the Republic of Macedonia for the needs of biological databases . .p 81-111.

Gasc, J-P., Cabela, A., Crnobrnja-Isailović, J., Dolmen, D., Grossenbacher, K., Haffner, P., Lescure, J., Martens, H., Martinez-Rica, J.P., Maurin, H., Oliveira, M.L., Sofianidou, T.S., Veith, M., Zuiderwijk, A. 1997. Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe. Societas Europaea Herpetologica & Museum Nationall d’ Histoire Naturelle (IEGB/SPN). Paris. .p 496.

Joger et al. 2009. Vipera ursinii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009 . .p /.