The natural habitat of Testudo graeca graeca includes semi-arid scrub and Mediterranean forest, to the verges of semi-desert, where it can be found inhabiting outcrops of succulent Euphorbia. This habitat is subject to marked seasonal fluctuations in vegetation – with peak availability of edible plants in winter and early spring. In southern areas, T. g. graeca is active throughout the warm winter period and estivates through the hot summer. In northern areas of its range, this cycle is reversed with a winter hibernation and summer activity period.
There are many regional variations in shell appearance throughout its extensive range around the Mediterranean.
In captivity, this tortoise requires a spacious, dry, well-drained pen with adequate natural graze. Freshwater should be available at all times. This species is in no way suitable for exclusive indoor maintenance in vivarium tanks. It is highly inadvisable to mix T. g. graeca with other species – including other members of the same genus. They are extremely susceptible to ‘alien’ pathogens and are notoriously difficult to cure ‘Runny Nose’ problems once they commence. Under no circumstances provide animal protein, or other high protein, high-fat foods to Testudo graeca. Although recommended in some outdated texts, to do so invites terminal renal problems and, in the case of juveniles, will lead to artificially accelerated growth and guaranteed Metabolic Bone Disease (e.g., ‘lumpy shell syndrome’).
Male: Smaller and long tail. Semi hinged plastron
Female: Larger and short tail. Semi hinged plastron. Caudal thigh tubercles in both sexes
DIET – A high fiber, low protein and calcium-rich diet will ensure good digestive tract function and smooth growth. Avoid over-reliance upon ‘supermarket’ greens and fruits, which typically contain inadequate fiber levels, excessive pesticide residues, and are too rich in sugar. While they need not be totally avoided, fruits should be given very sparingly to this species as the high sugar foods can cause diarrhea.
Additional calcium supplementation is essential. Powdered calcium can be sprinkled in all foods. It is suggested that one use calcium supplemented with vitamin D3 if the animal is being maintained indoors and calcium without D3 if it is outdoors. Provision of a cuttlefish bone, which can be gnawed if desired, is also recommended.