Wherever it lives, it's considered a vulnerable species: Testudo graeca, otherwise known as the common or Greek tortoise, which can be found up and down Israel's Mediterranean areas. These ungainly creatures like to make their homes, whether in open spaces or town and country gardens, in between plants and rocks. But the lowly turtle, like many other native fauna, is under threat, largely because of climate change, disturbance of their natural habitats, and landscape fragmentation..
Israel has not yet conducted any studies of the tortoises' daytime or seasonal activities, or how they use the territory in which they live. Hence, a multitude of fascinating questions are waiting to be answered. What are the hideaways and habitats the Greek tortoises prefer? What distance can they cover in a day, and how large is their 'home range' (the area that they require to survive)? Why don't we see any of these common turtles outdoors during the summer months? From the moment they break out of the egg until they reach maturity, where do the young ones find protection?
Last year, Ramat Hanadiv's Research Dept. in collaboration with Haifa University began seeking the answers to these and other questions about the turtle population. We have already mapped and marked tortoises in the field, and some of them are now geared up with GPS transmitters so that we can follow them from a distance.
Yesterday, during the morning hours, two male Greek tortoises broadcast their positions for the first time, and with some excitement MA student May Haimovitz (supervised by Dr. Uri Shanas) recorded their transmission. The males weigh in at approximately 600 g. (1 1/3 lb.) each, while a female is about 900-1000 g. (2 lb.) A transmitter weighs only about 14 g., and soon more turtles will be outfitted with them. We wish the researchers good luck - and of course, plan to bring you updates on the tortoises' activities and well-being.