The president of the association of the turtle refuge Jérôme Maran, with one of the two leprous emydes which will be released in the Pyrénées-Orientales. - Turtle refuge

  • Treated for a year at the Bessières tortoise refuge in Haute-Garonne, two leprous emydes will be released into their natural environment on July 21 in the Pyrénées-Orientales.
  • In France, these very rare water turtles are threatened.

Open to the public since April 2019, the Bessières tortoise refuge houses some 1,350 residents. On July 21, the site located 30 km northeast of Toulouse will see two leave. But this separation is anything but a heartbreak for its president Jérôme Maran and the team of volunteers who surrounds him.

"For the first time, we are going to release two specimens," explains this 46-year-old enthusiast. This will take place in a nature reserve on the Perpignan side, with the agreement of Dreal Occitanie [regional directorate for the environment, development and housing]. No more precise geographical indication will be given so as not to disturb the tranquility of these two leprous emydes.

Haute-Garonne: Little paradise for turtles, the Bessières refuge finally open to the public via @ 20minutes

- 20 Minutes Toulouse (@ 20minutestoul) April 29, 2019

Behind this uninviting name hide graceful reptiles of small size: between 12 and 20 cm long for about 500 g. Mauremys Leprosa is one of the three species present in mainland France, with the European pond turtle, aquatic like it, and the Hermann's tortoise, which prefers to keep its legs on the ground.

"No more than 200 or 300 individuals in France"

"It is a protected species, the rarest in our country since it is only found in certain streams and ponds in the Pyrénées-Orientales, while it also lives in Spain, Portugal or the Maghreb, details Jérôme Maran . There are no more than 200 or 300 individuals in France. "

The two turtles about to be released, after spending a year in Bessières, are around ten years old (they can live up to 70 years). One of them, found in a pitiful state by a walker not far from Perpignan, has only three legs, after having been amputated (and saved) by doctor Guillaume Le Loc'h of the veterinary school of Toulouse, partner of the refuge.

A number to contact in the event of a meeting

But leprous emyde is of the solid kind and ready to return to its natural environment with its congeners. On this subject, Jérôme Maran makes a call to hikers who would cross the path of a turtle. “It is best to send an MMS with a photo of the animal to our shelter [06 70 08 71 84]. You will be told right away if it is a local species. This will prevent people, well-intentioned but not necessarily connoisseurs, from taking a reptile and entrusting it to specialists in the belief that they are saving it, while the turtle was just strolling on its territory.


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