Diego the Horny Tortoise Saved His Species From Going Extinct — Now He Has Retired


A 100-year-old tortoise with a sex drive that just won’t quit helped save his species from the brink of extinction in a wildly successful breeding program. Now, after 40 years of rampant sex, he is happily retiring on his home island.

Diego, who had lived at the San Diego Zoo for 30 years, was one of three giant male Galápagos Española tortoises that participated in a 1976 breeding program at the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center on the island of Santa Cruz with 12 females from Española Island. At the time, only 14 tortoises remained.

Of the male tortoises in the program, Diego showcased an undying and rather aggressive sex drive throughout, and thanks to his efforts, Diego has been credited with helping save his species.

The island is now home to around 2,000 tortoises, and paternity tests conducted indicate 40% of them were fathered by the scaley Casanova. Another tortoise in the program called E5 was found to be responsible for the other 60% while the third male, E3, produced very little offspring.

Conservation biologists in the program believe it was Diego’s aggressive approach and loud mating habits that really defined his loving style. Plus, he’s pretty handsome for a fossil.

The recovery of the species has been a long and worthwhile effort from conservation biologists. Hunted by sailors, whalers and pirates for food, the population was on the fritz — a mere short time away for full-on extinction.

Now though, scientists have found new nests and hatched tortoises born on the island (not just in the conservation program), and a recent census deemed the population stable enough that the work of those 15 tortoises in the program could finally end.

After some 80 years away, both in the zoo and in the controlled program, Diego the sex turtle will now retire on home turf with his hundreds of babies and grandbabies.

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