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Tortoise orchiectomy – treatment tool or management option?
  1. John Chitty
  1. Anton Vets, Andover, Hampshire, UK
  1. email: exotics{at}

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While orchiectomy has been previously described in chelonian species,1,2 the paper by Hatt and colleagues, summarised on page 555 of this issue of Vet Record, contributes not just further advice on the technicalities of the surgery but also assesses its effects on courtship behaviour in Testudo species.3

From the technical aspect, Hatt and colleagues,3 by evaluating surgery over a period of time rather than in a single short study, have been able to demonstrate that surgery is easiest to perform in late spring when testes are smaller – a useful tip for anyone attempting what is a complex surgery.

Furthermore, from a clinician’s point of view, the study is interesting in that it looks at pet tortoises presenting with exaggerated courtship behaviours and how these behaviours have been affected by orchiectomy. These behaviours are a common problem in captive tortoises and can result in soft and hard tissue injuries to both aggressor and victim.4 Tortoises exhibiting such behaviours appear to be extremely frustrated and may become anorexic and lose weight. The frequency of these exaggerated behaviours is ascribed by Hatt and colleagues to high stocking densities and skewed sex ratios in captive populations – factors that will also produce such effects if they occur in wild populations.5

In other reptile species (eg, the green iguana [Iguana iguana]), the effects of surgical castration on sex-associated aggression have been variable,6,7 so Hatt and colleagues’ finding of a rapid and lasting effect after surgery is of value. However, it should be considered that the evaluation was subjective and performed by the owners. Further studies looking at hormone levels would provide a quantitative …

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