A C Highfield
If you already have one or more tortoises, you may wish to add another animal to your collection. Possibly you may wish to breed and your current tortoises are not well matched, or maybe you are just concerned that one or other of your tortoises might be lonely. These are both valid reasons for considering an addition to your present stock.
However, you should carefully consider the following points before adding new animals to an established group:
Some tortoises carry diseases to which others may have little or no resistance. The most common of these problems is the notorious RNS ('Runny Nose Syndrome'). There is currently much debate as to whether this is caused by a virus or a bacterial pathogen - either way, it is a killer and problems almost always start after new introductions. The problem is most likely if you mix several species, or take in tortoises which have been exposed to many others (e.g, from an enthusiast's collection). Isolated animals are much less likely to harbour this disease. Even so, be very careful whenever introducing new tortoises - even temporarily (such as looking after tortoises whose owners are on holiday). Obviously, if the tortoises have met before with no problems, then there is little danger.
AGE & EGG LAYING FEMALES
Do not subject elderly females to the (usually unwelcome) attention of males. Not only can this cause severe stress, but if a female has not had eggs for many years she may now be in no condition to lay them safely. Egg peritonitis ('egg binding') is a frequent and usually fatal consequence of trying to force elderly females to breed.
Certain species are much more aggressive in their general behaviour than others; some frequently and routinely bite for example. Other tortoises with more restrained habits may find being subjected to this kind of behaviour extremely stressful. Always try to keep compatible and closely matched groups. This is not only better from the breeding and behaviour aspects, but it also significantly reduces the risk of disease.
Steps to safer introductions:
The Tortoise Trust can assist with identifying tortoises and in establishing ages (see also our caresheet on this topic). Please send good quality photographs of any tortoises which you require identifying.