Testudo hermanni boettgeri:
Eastern Hermann's tortoise
Like the western subspecies, the eastern subspecies of Hermann's tortoise is subject to various local forms. One form is often coveted because of its light coloration. Testudo hermanni boettgeri from the republic of Macedonia tend to bear little black pigment anywhere on the shell and commonly have brighter skin coloration than other forms. Some examples are so yellow, they could rival the intensity of the yellow classically found on Testudo hermanni hermanni. Macedonian boettgeri
are sometimes confused with the Mesopotamian tortoise (Testudo graeca terrestris) because of the overall "golden" appeal. These tortoises are not uncommon in collections and each year hundreds of them are exported to countries like the USA. They are usually dubbed "farmed imports" but they are sadly collected in nature most of the time.
The eastern Hermann's tortoise's local forms are far less distinguishable than those belonging to the western Hermann's and these yellow Macedonians are not a constant occurrence in their nature home. More typical boettgeri are found alongside them and babies may or may not be as yellow as the parents that produce them. Still, they are a stunning example of boettgeri and worthy of recognition.
Testudo hermanni boettgeri from Macedonia are at times jaw-dropping when it comes to just how gold or yellow they can be. The carapace seems to glow when the sun hits it. This subspecies already normally lacks any well-defined black stripes on the plastron and in the case of such light colored specimens, the plastron will exhibit simple faint remnants of black patches or nothing at all. Some animals turn completely solid yellow once they reach an excessive age.
The eastern subspecies is typically marked by having dark colored skin especially on the head. It is the western subspecies that usually features brightly colored areas on the sides and top of the head and the Dalmatian tortoise (Testudo hermanni hercegovinensis) is known for having an area on the top of the head that is colored with yellow-green scales. In Macedonian tortoises, nearly the entire head may be littered with yellow areas. The snout, jaws and eyelids are often dark but the remainder of the head is surprisingly light colored on these golden examples. There is of course no defined subocular spot which is indicative of T. h. hermanni, but the abundance of yellow on the head can confuse the viewer as to which subspecies they are looking at. The shape and structure of the head is a dead giveaway that we are dealing with T. h. boettgeri, however.
Macedonians are in the size spectrum that is normally associated with T. h. boettgeri. Females may reach more than 8 to 9" with males right behind them or sometimes the same. As mentioned earlier, more classically colored specimens occur with these golden beauties and there is no known genetic difference between them and other eastern populations to date. Neonates are sometimes born looking exactly like any boettgeri while others lighten like their parents did. Nonetheless, this coloration is not attributed to age as some have suggested in the past. In fact, some elderly examples are actually rather dark while younger ones are much lighter. If the tortoise is going to be light colored, it has already been decided and we will see this either at hatching or in the first few years of life, not simply because it may be getting old.