Things That Matter

Diego, The 100-Year-Old Giant Tortoise Who Fathered Nearly 1,000 Offspring Is Going Into Retirement

After 40 years of giving his all for a good cause, Diego the tortoise is getting to do what so many of us dream of – he’s heading into retirement. Diego, noted for his next level sex drive, is credited with fathering enough baby tortoises to bring his species back from the brink of extinction. 

Diego, who is more than 100 years old, boosted his species’ population from just 15 to well over 2,000 on the island of Española, a part of the world-famous Galápagos Islands. He had been shipped over from the San Diego Zoo as part of a breeding program, and was one of 15 tortoises to take part in the program at the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center on the island of Santa Cruz. Now he’ll finally be returning to his island of origin. Mission accomplished.

The Galápagos National Park has announced it is ending a captive breeding program for giant Española tortoises, after one tortoise produced more than 800 offspring, helping save the species.

Credit: Rodrigo Buendía / Getty

A giant tortoise whose rampant sex life may have single-handedly saved his entire species from extinction has retired from his playboy lifestyle, returning to the wild with his mission accomplished.

Diego’s unmatched libido was credited as a major reason for the survival of his fellow giant tortoises on Española Island, part of the Galapagos Islands, after being shipped over from the San Diego Zoo as part of a breeding program.

It’s been nearly eight decades since Diego was extracted from his natural habitat. With his mission accomplished, he will now be released into the wilderness on the island where he was born.

When he started his campaign of promiscuity, there were just two males and 12 females of his species alive on the island.

Credit: Rodrigo Buendía / Getty

But the desirable shell-dweller had so much sex he helped boost the population to over 2,000. The Galapagos National Parks service believe the 100-year-old tortoise is the patriarch of around 40% of that population

The program started with only two male tortoises until a third, named Diego, was found in the San Diego Zoo. He had lived in the zoo for about 30 years before joining the breeding program on the Galápagos’ Santa Cruz island. Diego, now over 100 years old, had a big impact on the program; he has a strong personality and isn’t shy about sex, which earned him a reputation online. Now, he and the 14 other tortoises in the breeding program are preparing to return home.

“He’s contributed a large percentage to the lineage that we are returning to Espanola,” Jorge Carrion, the park’s director, told AFP. “There’s a feeling of happiness to have the possibility of returning that tortoise to his natural state.”

The recovery of the Española tortoises has been a decades-long battle.

Credit: Galapagos National Park

The giant tortoises were depleted from the island, hunted by sailors, whalers, and pirates for food, and goats were introduced. So before young tortoises could be restored on the island, conservationists had to contend with goats between the 1970’s and 1990’s. But cohorts of young turtles were released once or twice each year, with a survival rate of over 50 percent. By 2010, tortoises were once again a common sight on the island, Rory Carroll reported at the time for the Guardian

“During the expedition we found nests, recently hatched tortoises, and adults born on Española, which indicates that the tortoise population is doing well,” Washington Tapia, director of the Galápagos Tortoise Restoration Initiative, told Carroll in 2010.

The decision to end the breeding program comes after the 2019 census of Española island. The census and models of the next 100 years of tortoise population on the island found that “the island has sufficient conditions to maintain the tortoise population, which will continue to grow normally — even without any new repatriation of juveniles,” Tapia, said per a translation of the original statement.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com