Land Turtles (also called Tortoises)

Tortoises, with their aquatic cousins, the terrapins and sea turtles, are the only reptiles to have a tough shell made of ribs, covered with large scales and fused with the skeleton. It provides a “mobile home;” great protection, particularly for those species (like this baby tortoise) that can retreat into it closing the entrance with their scaly legs.

In Lebanon there is only one species of land turtle; the Mediterranean Spur Thighed Tortoise also called the Greek Tortoise (Testudo graeca).

World Wide Distribution

It is a widespread species from N. Africa to S. Europe and S. W. Europe with a vertical distribution of up to 2000m. However many populations were greatly reduced due to over collecting for the pet trade. Although there is a healthy population currently in Lebanon collecting can rapidly destroy populations. As well as decimating local populations collected animals, exported illegally often die in transit. Listed on the IUCN red list as Vulnerable (see Conservation).


In Lebanon: The tortoise is widely distributed, although missing from heavily urbanized areas and the high peaks. Along the coast it has been lost from many areas due to habitat loss from construction.

Behavior: A proverbially slow species it feeds through the day on leaves flowers and fruits but will also eat at carcasses. Courtship is in the spring and females lay 3 to 5 eggs in 2 or 3 clutches each year.


Annabelle Riess, “Population structure and dynamics of Testudo graeca in the Aammiq area (Beqaa, Lebanon) during spring and summer times,” A Rocha Lebanon Report, 2011.