Keeping Males and Females Separate

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Tom

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I've been mulling this one over for several months now... We had a thread several months ago about breeding leopards and it turned to,
'how long can they retain sperm and produce offspring in the absence of a male?" Several people suggested three years or so. One person had a friend with a 1.2 group and the male died. The two females were still producing healthy babies 5 years later.

Recently GB pointed me toward a great Russian tortoise article. In it the authors recommend keeping the males separate from the females most of the year and only briefly introducing them in the spring for breeding after hibernation. Here's the article for those who want to read it:
http://www.dght.de/ag_schildkroeten/pdf/ehorsfield.pdf

Most people just keep groups of one male and several females together year round. This is what I've been doing, but I'm rethinking it. Specifically, I'm proposing this theory for russians and sulcatas which are both very aggressive tortoises and very aggressive breeders. This probably is not necessary for species like leopards that are fairly peaceful with each other most of the time, although I don't think it will hurt anything either. I'm seriously considering (and planning) building a separate pen for my male on the other side of the ranch and letting him live alone most of the year. He won't care one bit, but the females will get a much needed break from his constant harassment. He breeds them everyday all year long. IF I even wanted to breed them, I'm quite certain I would have the same fertility results if I just put them together a couple of times a year. Somedays I put him outside the pen and let him run loose around the ranch, and on those days the females seem a bit more outgoing and relaxed. They stay out more and graze more. I think this will improve the overall health of my herd. If someone's intention is to breed and get viable offspring, I don't think this would do anything to set you back, and it might actually help.

Anyone have any thoughts on this? Any experience with it? Any reason to NOT do it?
 

dmmj

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Right now I can't honestly think of a reason why not to do it. I can say I think overall you herd will be happier if the males are separate from the females, I plan on doing this with my russians and see what happens.
 

webskipper

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When I bred birds in college, I was always told to separate the sexes for the Winter.

Birds are Reptiles, so....
 

ascott

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Tom, I have no direct experience doing what you propose...but fully support this way of thinking. It would, IMO, bring the stress level of the herd down if the pestering boys (bless their little horny selfs) were removed.

I have always had the understanding the sperm can be retained by the female for near 7 years +. So, I can not see the need to be 24/7 together to achieve the end result of hatchlings...again, IMHO :D
 

webskipper

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ascott said:
I have always had the understanding the sperm can be retained by the female for near 7 years +. So, I can not see the need to be 24/7 together to achieve the end result of hatchlings...again, IMHO :D

Oh thank goodness, I can stop dating finally. So many better things to do than courtship.
 

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With a few exceptions, mainly based on space needs, I keep my males seperate from the females. Those that hibernate outdoors I allow to hibernate together by placing them in the same enclosure in early September. I then allow them to stay together throughout the spring breeding season and any that were indoors I place together also. Just before females begin to nest here, which is early June, I seperate males from females for the summer. About once every 3-4 weeks I will place females back into the males enclosure for 2-3 days at a time to allow breeding. I have found by doing this that the females are generally less stressed and more healthy overall and mating is more aggressive and positive from both the male and female.
 

dmmj

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How many males do you keep together?and do you place all the males and females together? or just certain ones?
 

GBtortoises

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I have a ratio of about 1:2 or 3, male to female of most species. Generally, about 2 males per 8' x 16' enclosure and 4-5 females within the same size enclosure. I place a specific male into the female enclosure and place specific females into the enclosure with the remaining male. In other words the same males mate the same females each time. This allows me offer unrelated offspring. The exception to this is my Russians and Pancake tortoises which I keep the males and females together at all times mainly due to lack of space. After next year the Russians will begin to be seperated also. Because I live in the Northeast the Pancakes are kept solely indoors. Interestly, those two same species are the ones with the poorest mating and reproduction here.
 

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I haven't bred my Russians yet, but I do agree that there are probably a few good "tricks" you can do to mimic natural conditions a bit better. In the wild, male Russian tortoises patrol a territory of over 50 acres, and females over 100 acres. This probably means that the two encounter one another comparatively rarely. In captivity, they probably shouldn't see each other very often either, to minimize stress on the female.

Also, male-male combat appears to have a beneficial effect on tortoise fertility. Some people keeping redfoots have found that their males are more likely to sire offspring if they have the opportunity to fight a bit with other males, probably because it raises their testosterone levels. This could be true for Russians and other tortoises as well.

All of this stuff is probably what these animals do in their natural habitat. If you can safely and conveniently replicate this in captivity, it's probably a good thing.
 

Tom

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GeoTerraTestudo said:
All of this stuff is probably what these animals do in their natural habitat. If you can safely and conveniently replicate this in captivity, it's probably a good thing.

The above is usually accepted as a logical fact. But noting what Neltharion and Ryan are doing above and the success that each of them are having, the statement does not seem to hold true in the case of captive russians.
 

Yvonne G

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After my initial (albeit accidental) success at having my Manouria lay eggs, with no more success in subsequent years, I tried different ways of keeping them. I've tried keeping the male separate and it didn't work with that species.
 

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I, myself, keep my males in with the females all the time.

With the Russians, I use to separate my males as I brought them in for the winter (or hibernated them in the years I did that). In those years the males remained together until I placed everybody outside in the spring. The last two years, I have just left them together. I can not honestly see any difference between the two different styles of keeping them.

I sometimes think my Russians are just more laid back then most of yours are. I have the males breeding, don't get me wrong on that, but my males don't become the monsters, so many of you talk about. They do pester the females (most obviously in springtime), but they don't take bites out of them (or each other). The males do in the springtime, do the shell butting/clashing, but that is it. It may help that there enclosure is very very thickly planted (too overgrown currently :rolleyes:), that the females can keep to their areas, while the males tend to prowl the open feed area the most.

I tried keeping my male Bells hingeback from the females, more to hopefully get fertile eggs rather then just eggs. That of course didn't work. He was more sexually active when first placed back in with them (a few days), but overall I don't think it was more activity, just a burst of activity.

I keep all my hingebacks (Bells, Erosa, and Homes) together in breeding pairs or trios. I have good breeding activity from all three and many eggs from the Bells and Homes (just can't get the darn things to hatch :(). The Speki are together, but are still too young.
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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Tom said:
GeoTerraTestudo said:
All of this stuff is probably what these animals do in their natural habitat. If you can safely and conveniently replicate this in captivity, it's probably a good thing.

The above is usually accepted as a logical fact. But noting what Neltharion and Ryan are doing above and the success that each of them are having, the statement does not seem to hold true in the case of captive russians.

Yes, it does sound like we can't just assume that trying to replicate nature will yield the best results. Of course, if we have to manipulate these guys to mimic natural stocking densities, then that turns out not to be a natural situation. This is because they get moved to a new enclosure, which could be stressful because they have to get used to a new place. Also, if they get picked up only infrequently, I would think is stressful, since they neither get the benefit of being left alone altogether, nor do they get the benefit of habituating to us as much as possible. If so, maybe that could prevent them from breeding.
 

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I keep my group together year round also. I have a 2.4 group they are kept inside year round. Mine do not constantly breed they will go through periods where they will breed a lot and then there won't be any for a few weeks. I have only been breeding for a couple of years, but my success had grown from a 25% hatch rate the first year to 80% this year. And now I have 4 eggs in the incubator and all look fertile with 2 of them due to hatch any day, So unless I see any serious bullying going on I am going to keep my group together.

Jon
 

Neltharion

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GeoTerraTestudo said:
Also, male-male combat appears to have a beneficial effect on tortoise fertility. Some people keeping redfoots have found that their males are more likely to sire offspring if they have the opportunity to fight a bit with other males, probably because it raises their testosterone levels. This could be true for Russians and other tortoises as well.

I had a single male with two females for a few years. Tried hibernating, tried a cool down period, tried keeping them together, tried keeping females separate from the male. Nothing worked. Once I obtained two more trios and combined the herd, they started breeding.

I do not separate the males from the females though. I was actually advised by local club members that it was unnecessary for successful breeding. On the other hand, I have never heard anyone suggest that there were any disadvantages t seperating them either.
 

Tortuga_terrestre

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Im not a very experienced breeder...but I do see some truth to this topic. My female leo rams the male during feeding time; becomes somewhat territorial. He is so persistent....Unfortunately I dont have the space to seperate them. Do females exhibit the same behavior amongs themselves?
 

Az tortoise compound

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In my opinion...
There is no issue with keeping males and females (of any species) together full-time.
Almost every issue I've had in the past (or hear about now) can be traced back to one problem...not enough room in the enclosure.

With all that said, there are always exceptions to the rule, hyper-aggressive or timid animals.
 

GeoTerraTestudo

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Az tortoise compound said:
In my opinion...
There is no issue with keeping males and females (of any species) together full-time.
Almost every issue I've had in the past (or hear about now) can be traced back to one problem...not enough room in the enclosure.

With all that said, there are always exceptions to the rule, hyper-aggressive or timid animals.

Makes sense. At a certain level of space, the animals don't feel crowded, so there's no reason to separate them anymore. I'm sure no one can offer them 50 acres, but then, that's probably not necessary. How many males and females from a given species will your average backyard comfortably support?
 
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