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Diego the tortoise is saving his species by having lots of sex

Giant tortoise saves species

Diego the giant tortoise may be over 100 years old, but he’s been doing his best to save his species by having lots and lots of sex. Yes, it’s true. Diego, a Galapagos giant tortoise who lives on the island of Española, which is the southernmost in the Galapagos Archipelago, he has fathered an estimated 800 offspring, AFP reports. 

“He’s a very sexually active male reproducer. He’s contributed enormously to repopulating the island,”  Washington Tapia, a tortoise preservation specialist at Galapagos National Park, told the news service.

Diego belongs to the species Chelonoidis hoodensis, which is only native to Española.

The tortoise has had quite a journey in his long life, including decades on display at the San Diego Zoo.

Dr. Harry Wegeforth, the zoo’s founder, brought Diego to San Diego after one of his two expeditions to the Galapagos in 1928 and 1933, according to the zoo’s website. Flash forward to the 1960s, and the species was declared critically endangered. There were only two males and 12 females remaining in the wild, and a search went on to find others that lived in zoos. The San Diego Zoo​ returned Diego to his home in 1977. He then joined his fellow tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station.

It was there that Diego proved he’s quite the Romeo. A study done on the turtle population six years ago revealed that this busy tortoise was the father of 40 percent of the new tortoises released back into the wild from the station. About 2,000 tortoises​ have been released in Española thanks to this breeding program, the species is no longer in danger of extinction. 

But the threats are very real. Out of the 15 species of giant tortoises that were native to the Galapagos Islands, three have sadly gone extinct. 

At a ripe old age, Diego is doing his best to make sure his descendants have a brighter future.

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