Although we don’t currently have any Sea Turtles at the centre, we have rescued a number of other animals that we currently house in the main building of our centre.
The Herman tortoise is native to Zakynthos but is found throughout Europe. At the centre we have an outdoor natural enclosure with 8 tortoises. They are very friendly and each day we have feeding time for the tortoises where the public are invited to watch and learn a bit about them. The public love them and their similarity to the sea turtle makes for interesting education.
Herman tortoises range from 12-23 cm in size. The coloration of the shell varies throughout Europe, in the west they tend to be very colourful and in the east they tend to be duller, however colour tends to fade with age. Both sub-species have distinct dark bands under their shell. These tortoises can also have either 4 or 5 front claws, this is genetically determined depending on the mother. They have to be 4-10 years of age before you can determine the sex by looking at the shape of their tail. The males have bigger and thicker tails than the female, whilst females tend to be bigger in overall size than the males. Tortoises have no teeth, only a beak, like jaws.
They like to burrow and climb, they are very tame animals and intelligent enough to learn how to recognize the people who feed them and may even follow them around. They eat most grasses, flowers and leaves, but when the preferred food is scarce they will also eat insects, snails and slugs. We feed them on vegetables once a day for an extra treat.
They are found throughout Europe and prefer maritime forest and grassland habitats. They are considered ‘near threatened’ on the IUCNs endangered species list. They are most threatened by habitat loss, hunting and being poisoned by pesticides. They have no natural predators once their shell has hardened due to the ability to retract their head and limbs into their shell. They are threatened by illegal harvesting for the pet trade. Nowadays, they are CITES 2 listed so that trade must be controlled in order to avoid uses incompatible with their survival.
At Earth, Sea & Sky, we have a Texas Rat Snake called Diamond. She came to us because her owner was moving and not able to look after her anymore. Usually rat snakes have a bit of an attitude, but with a little work and patience can become good pets. Diamond is very kind and calm and we often take her out to show tourists.
The Texas Rat Snake is found in the United States, mostly within the state of Texas, but can also be found in the neighbouring states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Mississippi. Their habitat can vary from swamps and forests to grasslands and even urban areas. The Texas Rat Snake is a subspecies of Rat Snake that varies greatly in colour and patterning. In the wild they eat a mixture of rodents, birds, lizards, frogs and eggs; at the centre we feed her mostly rats and birds. The Texas Rat Snake is not venomous, and although it can bite, the bite is harmless.
Our director Yannis has rescued over 3000 fish which we now have in several tanks around the centre. The fish we have in the large tanks in our Main Building swim into a river in between Laganas and Kalamaki beach every year to spawn their eggs. However, over the past few years this river has become extremely polluted and dries out at the start of the summer, leaving thousands of dead fish behind.
This year we managed to rescue around 3000 of juvenile white mullet and sea bass from the river before it dried out. We will keep them at the centre and feed them until they reach full size. When fully gown they reach around 30cm in length, it is at this point that we will release them into the ocean.