Sexing Desert Tortoises: All desert tortoise hatchlings have flat-bottomed shells (plastrons) for their first 10-15 years. After that time, the rear half of the male's bottom shell begins to develop a concavity. The female tortoise's plastron remains flat. Exceptions to this rule are occasionally noted. The average male desert tortoise weighs 9-14 lbs, while the average female weighs 6-11 lbs.
Reproductive Problems: Metritis (infection of the uterus), retained eggs, and egg yolk peritonitis are common among female desert tortoises. Some of these problems can be managed medically. Others require surgery.
Prolapses of the penis, uterus, intestine or urinary bladder are relatively common. General anesthesia is necessary to carefully replace the prolapsed organ inside the body. Simply pushing it back into the cloaca where it is out of sight may result in a slow death. A thorough diagnostic work-up (x-rays, laboratory testing) must be performed to diagnose their causes.