Population Explosion: Tortoise Group sponsors free sterilization clinic for pet tortoises

It’s one of the desert’s most recognizable mascots but backyard breeding has led to a population overload when it comes to the captive tortoises. Now, volunteers are taking action.

It’s a health clinic like nowhere else in the country, dozens of desert tortoises lined up and waiting for a basic examination.

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« We’re checking their nose and eyes for discharge. We’re checking their mouth color, » said Dr. Peregine Wolff.

A sterilization clinic to help cut down on backyard breeding of captive tortoises and doctors are making sure tortoises are healthy enough for surgery.

« There are just too many of them. They are eating up all the resources that the wild tortoises will naturally eat up, » said Kobbe Shaw with the Tortoise Group.

Shaw is the executive director of the Tortoise Group, who says while the desert tortoise is threatened in the wild, in captivity there’s a population explosion.

And due to the threat of disease, the two groups cannot mix. Wild stays wild and once a, always a pet.

Now in conjunction with U.S Fish and Wildlife and the Nevada Department of Wildlife, Shaw’s agency is hosting this free service.

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« It’s a sterile procedure like if you’re a dog or cat was going in for a spay or neuter. It’s the same level of medicine, » said Dr. Wolff.

But not every veterinarian is qualified to work on tortoises.

« It’s a very new thing. It’s only 3 or 4 years old. Very safe for the animal, » said Shaw. Which is why the clinic will also train doctors, some coming as far as Canada.

As far as adopting tortoises, Tortoise Group is the only agency in the state authorized to re-home these animals. And they have over 100 waiting.

As for the surgeries, Dr. Pergrine Wollff says once a vet learns the tortoise anatomy, it’s not that complicated and these hard-shelled family members should be back in their burrows in just a few days.

For more information on tortoise adoption or sterilization, click here.