When I went to pick Malti up from her breeder, he presented me with a small plastic container. Inside the container were two VERY tiny tortoises.
One of the tortoises was even smaller than the other, and quite quick while running and scampering around the little container. The other tortoise was a bit quieter, slower, and darker in coloration.
I asked the breeder, “Which one do you think is a girl?” (this on account of how I didn’t discover my boy bird, Pearl, was a boy until he was 11 years old – you can read more about that big surprise in our book biography, Love & Feathers).
The breeder studied both torts, then pronounced, “Well, you can’t tell gender at this age, but if I had to guess, I would pick that one out as the girl.”
He pointed to the slightly larger, darker micro-tort. About 15 minutes and $140 dollars later, she was riding home in the passenger seat beside me in that same small plastic dish.
Fast forward three years, and her breeder was right. Malti is a girl tortoise.
How do we know? For starters, her veterinarian confirmed it. Also, her upper shell, or carapace, is wider, rounder, and more circle-like than a maturing boy red footed tortoise’s shell would be.
Plus, her under-shell, or plastron, is smooth and straight – there is no dent in it like a boy redfoot would have.
Finally, her tail is a short, polite little lady tortoise tail, with the opening (cloaca) quite near the shell.