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Orchiectomy in Testudo species: technical aspects and effect on courtship behaviour
  1. Jean-Michel Hatt1,
  2. Maya Kummrow1,
  3. Sandra Wenger2 and
  4. Marcus Clauss1
  1. 1Clinic for Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  2. 2Kleintierpraxis Laupeneck, Bern, Switzerland
  1. E-mail for correspondenceClinic for Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife, University of Zurich, Zurich 8057, Switzerland; jmhatt{at}


Courtship behaviour of tortoises includes biting, ramming, chasing, same-sex sexual behaviour, and it commonly is excessive in European tortoise species kept as pets. As a result, males are kept individually. To assess the effect of orchiectomy on excessive courtship behaviour in European tortoises, 50 tortoises (Testudo graeca, T hermanni and T marginata) underwent endoscopically assisted orchiectomy from April through September 2013 to 2017. Statistical analyses were performed in relation to species, body mass, testicular size and season and owners were invited to fill out a follow-up questionnaire. Body mass of the tortoises ranged from 334 to 2645 g (mean 1056 g) and the age from 5 to estimated 60 years. Testicular length ranged from 1.4 to 7.0 cm (mean 2.7 cm) and testicular mass from 0.6 to 12.6 g (mean 3.9 g). A complete or partial reduction (allowing group-housing) of the excessive courtship behaviour was noted by 95 per cent of owners and 59 per cent of the owners reported a noticeable change of behaviour within a month of surgery. Given the seasonal variation in testicular size, the best period for castrations in male European tortoises is shortly after brumation (April, May), when testes are proportionally smaller.

  • reptiles
  • behaviour
  • exotics
  • surgery
  • endoscopy
  • welfare
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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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