Back in 2003, wild fires oblitereated sections of the forest in the Esterel and Maures mountain ranges in the Var department, destroying more than 200 square kilometers of forestry. This summer has seen an unfortunate relapse and the area has suffered greatly from droughts, strong winds, intense heat and, once again, forest fires.
The frequency of fires in these particular parts of the region have raised questions about environmental regeneration and the conservation of species in the area, particularly the endangered Hermann’s tortoise, which has become a symbol of the wildlife that it roams the hinterland.
The Hermann’s tortoise is one of the most endangered reptiles in France and is classified as ‘threatened’ in the P.A.C.A. region. SOPTOM (Station for the Observation and Protection of Tortoises and their Environment) have been fighting to prevent the dissappearence of the species for the past thirty years.
In Var, more than five hectares of natural habitat on Cap Taillat and Lardier (La Croix Valmer-Ramatuelle) have been affected by fires in recent weeks. The fires were strong and spared only a handful of plants and wildlife, killing over 90% of Hermann’s tortoises in the surrounding area. Surveys were conducted on the land in the days following the fires by CEN (Regional Conservatory of Natural Areas) and experts from SOPTOM. The surviving tortoises will be closely monitored by these specialists in the weeks and months to come.
SOPTOM have opened a special Tortoise Village (Village des tortues de Carnoules), which offers tourists and locals alike the chance to learn all about tortoises and aid in their care and restoration. Each visitor becaomes a particpant in their own way in the fight to save Hermann’s tortoise from extincation in Var.