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Tortoise population ravaged by wildfire

The wildfire that forced 12,000 of people out of their homes in the Côte d’Azur killed 90% of Hermann’s tortoises in the area

The Hermann’s tortoise has a longer lifespan than most animals, and can live up to 110 years.

But the wildfire that engulfed forests in the Var over a week ago took their toll on these hardy creatures.

The fires subsided last Friday, but it was clear before the tortoise cadavers were discovered that there would be multiple victims.

“We are going to find burnt shells,” said François Fouchier of the local coastal conservation group.

The Agence Régionale pour L’Environnement et L’Écodéveloppement in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (ARPE) has made an urgent appeal on behalf of the tortoises.

“Fires raged across 500 hectares in the Cap Taillat and Cap Lardier. Less than 10% of tortoises found were still living. We now need to begin a long effort to restore the population,” said a press statement from the ARPE.

Named after the French naturalist Johann Hermann, the Hermann’s tortoise is found across Mediterranean countries including Greece, Italy and France. It is the only tortoise species native to France. 

The Hermann's tortoise if protected at the international level and from 2010 to 2014 the ARPE ran a conservation program for the species, which has been in decline due to frequent forest fires, loss of habitat and agricultural practices.

They are popular domestic pets and the average tortoise can live an equivalent lifespan to a human.

The ARPE warned people not to interfere with nature by picking up any tortoises they may find: “This would be a second catastrophe following the fire. These tortoises are essential to keep the wild population going”.

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