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Brother & sister
Posted: 24/04/2013 by Don

Hi everyone,

First let me fill you in with the history. My two Med Spur Thigh's came to us from someone who no longer wanted them. Both from the same clutch of eggs from a UK breeder, I assumed they would be the same gender. This was around 8 years ago. Both grew up with stubby tails and flat plastrons'. But since coming out of hibernation this year, one (Pork Pie) has been acting strange toward the other (Mrs Pastry). About a week ago, Pork Pie began butting Mrs Pastry, this had never happened before. I was rather hopping it was just a little aggression as they both always want to get in the same corner. A quick look at Pork Pie's plastron revealed it to still be flat and her tale stubby.

A couple of days ago Pork Pie tried to mount Mrs Pastry and being unsuccessful began butting her. Another look at Pork Pie's plastron confirmed it was still as flat as Mrs Pastry's. 'Do I have a lesbian tortoise?' I asked myself.

Today there has been more butting and further attempts to mount. Creeping up on them and getting down to ground level for a good look, I saw it. Pork Pie is a MALE. I have a brother trying to bonk his sister and that really just wont do.

In my opinion, tortoises are not suited to the climat conditions in this country, so I would not wish to breed more animals to be subjected to a life in an unsuitable environment. Even if I was not of this opinion, I would not want to breed from genetically similar individuals. Inbreeding can result in deformity and a weakened genetic structure.

These two have been together all their lives' and I have never wanted for them to be separated, but I looks as if that is what must now happen.

I would be grateful of any ideas or comments you have.

Re: Brother & sister
Posted: 24/04/2013 by Tom

Hello, it's a little naive to expect to expect a plastron to change shape within a few days. You state"I saw it." Assuming "it"is a penis, then there is a simple fact that you've overlooked - if eggs are produced - use them for cooking. If you believe that your tortoises are "subjected to a life in an unsuitable environment" - then do something to improve it, or may I suggest that you suitably re-home them.

Re: Brother & sister
Posted: 25/04/2013 by Don

Tom, I don't think you have understood my post. I was not expecting the plastron or tail to have changed shape over the course of a few days. I was confirming that I had not noticed a change which had already ocurred or was in the process of doing so.

From a scientific point of view, destroying any eggs would be the obvious course to take, since any offspring would stand chance of being deformed, or carrying a genetic fault which might result in the next generation manifesting that fault.

However, this is not an answer to the problem of the female being continually pestered by the male to mate. So far she has proved unreceptive, resulting in the male butting her. Even if she were to become receptive, the male would still want to mate in the future, despite a successful copulation. What's more, this would happen every year.

Again, you have misunderstood my meaning when I wrote "subjected to a life in an unsuitable environment". My tortoises have a large table which practically fills my garage and (weather conditions permitting) the free range of a garden which was redesigned specifically with them in mind. There is nothing to be done to make their habitat any more suitable, except to change the British climat. Tortoises range from equatorial to subtropical regions in the wild, they do not inhabit temperate zones, such as ours, because the climat conditions are unsuitable.

Re: Brother & sister
Posted: 25/04/2013 by Tom

Hello Don. No I didn't, you looked (& again days later) at the plastron. The "scientific" method to determine the sex is to check the supracaudal. Dead easy & no need to pick up. If the behaviour is persistent - 3 options, (separate as you say) re-home the male, obtain another female, (TPG Re- homing) or castration, extreme but can be done.
Re "climatic conditions" - better than a tort table in your garage, consider (for in bad weather) a greenhouse, (or mini), or a mini poly tunnel, 6x4ft x6ft (high) only £50 online!! Large wooden overnight houses with poly -carbonate tops are easy to make. Armed with some of the above, UK summers are great for torts. In the wild in mid-summer food is scarce & the extreme heat leads to a 2 month aestivation.
You don't state which species of 'Spur-thighed' you have, but since they hibernate they are NOT from "equatorial to sub-tropical regions" as you state, quite the opposite, they do (largely) come from a temperate zone.

Re: Brother & sister
Posted: 26/04/2013 by Don

Hi Tom, again there has been a misunderstanding. Perhaps Ihave not made myself very clear. First off, these are Mediterranean Spur Thightortoises (L. Testudo Graeca Graeca).I am under no delusion that this species ranges from equatorial to subtropical.My statement that tortoises range from equatorial to subtropical was referring toall species, be they the sub-Saharan Leopard or the Russian Horsfield.

In fact it is the Russian Horsfield (L. Testudo Horsfieldii) which is the most northerly rangingspecies. But even this species is found no further north than 46⁰ Lat. (UzbekistanSteppe Tortoise) and survives in the cold of the Russian Steppes only by virtueof the fact that they can dig in deep during the winter months and the lowhumidity of the region.

Yes, I was wrong to say tortoises do not occur in thetemperate zone. What I should have said is the temperate climate, ie. The colderregions of the temperate zone which do not enjoy near subtropical conditionsand which tend be north of 40⁰ Lat.

In Europe, the most northerly ranging tortoise is theHermann (L. Testudo Hermanii) ofSouthern France below 45⁰ Lat.

Therefore I cannot agree with you that Britain (lyingbetween 50⁰ and 58⁰ Lat) and with relatively high humidity, is any place for atortoise. If it were the case, Britain would have an indigenous population ofwild tortoises. So far as I am aware, no tortoise, extant or extinct, naturallyinhabits any region north of 46⁰ Lat. Yes, Britain does have a good supply ofwild plants suitable for Mediterranean tortoises, but I would argue that thisis not necessarily a good thing, since tortoises have evolved to exist on a meagrediet.

As to a greenhouse or tunnel, I am not a great fan of these,since they can result in overheating in our unpredictable weather. Also, glass,polythene and polycarbonate absorb the UV wavelengths of light. Glass (dependanton its thickness) may absorb around 30% and polycarbonate as much as 99% of UVlight.

You mention that determining gender can be done by lookingat the supracaudal scute. While this is generally the case in Testudo Hermanni, it is not in Testudo Hermanni Boettgeri  or TestudoGraeca.

Anyway, to get back to the matter in hand, neutering I didnot even give a thought to as the invasive procedure is far too risky.Temporary separation I donít think would work since tortoises in captivity donot have a mating season. Separation would need to be permanent and Iím afraidI do not really have the space for a second tortoise table of a suitable sizeand dividing the garden in two would not be practicable.

As to re-homing, this has been the only solution I have beenable to come up with. The problem here would be which one has to go? I think Iwould find it impossible to choose and would always feel bad about itespecially since the one I keep would be a constant reminder that I Ďgot ridíof the other and the poor little blighters have already been re-homed once.

The only other solution I have come up with is to have bothof them re-homed, in which case I would certainly be looking to either Tammy(Tortoise Trust) or the TPG for help.

I fear this is a dilemma with no happy solution and whichonly serves to exacerbate my infuriation on the taking of wild animals (whichcontinues to this day) without a care for the individuals future or the futureof the species as a whole, and the breeding of animals without thought fortheir future.

I am still at a loss here. I just don't know which way to turn.

I think I am just hoping against hope that someone will havea eureka  moment and come up with a happysolution.

Re: Brother & sister
Posted: 26/04/2013 by Don

Do excuse the spacing on that last post. I swear the spacing was fine until I submitted the post. Click and drag me down to the editor

Anyway, thanks for your comments Tom. Anyone else got any ideas?

Re: Brother & sister
Posted: 27/04/2013 by Tom

Hello again Don, you have strong views & I must respect that. Why is it that with T.h.h. you can sex them by observing the supracaudal - but not with T.h.b. or T.g.g ?
If you would like to upload some pics of your torts, I'd be pleased confirm that they are T.g.g. - a species that I have studied in the wild for 30 yrs. It's just that often in this country, people have something slightly different.
Have a good weekend,


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