The Galápagos tortoise was in extreme danger of going extinct until Diego came along. As one of only three remaining males, it was up to him to save his species with his rampant sex drive as part of the captive breeding program at the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center on the island of Santa Cruz. Now that his work is done, he’s ready to relax.
Diego is more than 100 years old. Diego was brought to Fausto Llerena as one of 15 tortoises comprised of 12 females and 3 males. Despite his advanced age, he didn’t have any issues with procreation or even desire. In fact, he was one of the most sexually active of the males in the program. Get it, Diego!
He really made a mark on the population. So rabid was Diego’s sex drive that it’s estimated that up to 40% of the tortoises now in the wild on Española Island, part of the Galápagos Islands, are descendants of his. That’s pretty impressive!
He has a lot of kids. The San Diego Zoo estimates that Diego has about 1,700 offspring, which shows just how busy he’s been over the years! Given that he first became part of the program back in 1977, it’s clear that Diego hasn’t wasted much time in replenishing the tortoise population.
He’s still going strong today! It’s estimated that Diego is about 130 years old now, which has exceeded their natural lifespan of roughly 100 years (though the oldest one in captivity got to 170 years old). While he’s no longer actively trying to procreate, he’s not showing any signs of being on his way out either!
Now, the program is being shut down. It’s believed that the tortoise population in the islands, which went from 15 to 2,000 thanks to Diego’s help, is now sustainable on its own and will continue to rebound naturally. As Washington Tapia, director of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative (GTRI), said in a statement, “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.” Sweet!
Now, it’s time for Diego to enjoy his retirement. In March, he’ll be headed back to Española Island nearly 80 years after he was first taken from there. He’ll get to live out the rest of his life in peace knowing (well, as much as a tortoise can know) that he helped save his species.
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