Diego the tortoise, who had so much sex he helped save his entire species from extinction, is now able to retire from the breeding program he was a part of.
The tortoise, who is more than 100 years old, was one of 15 tortoises (12 females and three males) in the captive breeding program at the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center on the island of Santa Cruz.
Despite his old age, Diego had no problem mating and had an exceptional sex drive, with as many as 40% of the current population of tortoises on Española Island – part of the Galápagos Islands – thought to be descendants of the tortoise.
The Galápagos tortoise was brought to the US between 1928 and 1933 and was later placed into the Charles Darwin Research Station for protection after the species was declared critically endangered in the 1960s.
As one of only three remaining males, Diego could make a significant contribution to saving the species – and that he did, with estimates from San Diego Zoo indicating he has about 1,700 offspring.
The breeding program began in 1965, with efforts first dedicated to saving the tortoise population on Pinzón Island, another island in the Galápagos. In 1970, researchers began saving the Española Island tortoises, with Diego being introduced to the program in 1976.
Now, thanks to his contribution, the Galápagos National Park has announced the end of the breeding program, saying an evaluation showed it had met its conservation goals. It helped increase the tortoise population from 15 to 2,000.
In a statement, the conservancy said the island’s ecosystems are currently ‘adequate’ to support the growing population of tortoises.
Washington Tapia, director of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative (GTRI), said:
Based on the results of the last census conducted at the end of 2019 and all the data available since 1960, both of the island and its turtle population, we developed mathematical models with different possible scenarios for the next hundred years and in all the conclusion was that the island has sufficient conditions to keep the turtle population that will continue to grow normally, even without any new repatriation of juveniles.
Jorge Carrión, director of the Galápagos National Park, praised the ‘management actions’ implemented within the program for the recovery of the giant tortoise population, such as the eradication of introduced species.
Now, almost 80 years after he was taken, Diego is expected to return to his home island, Española Island, in March – almost eight decades after being extracted.
What a guy!
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