Diego, Galápagos Islands tortoise, retiring from life of abundant sex

A tortoise who had so much sex he helped save his species from extinction is retiring from his profusely procreative pursuits after fathering hundreds of offspring, wildlife officials say.

Diego the tortoise’s active sex life and the 40-year captive breeding program for his species are coming to end after officials on the Galápagos Islands say the initiative was a success.

Diego, an Española tortoise, or Chelonoidis hoodensis, is native to Española Island, part of the famed archipelago studied by Charles Darwin.

In the mid-1960s, Diego was one of only 15 remaining tortoises of his species originally found on the island. Today, at more than 100 years old, he is one of 2,000, largely thanks to his sexual escapades.

“The island has sufficient conditions to maintain the tortoise population, which will continue to grow normally,” Washington Tapia, the director of the restoration program, said in a statement.

More Galápagos tortoises:Not seen for 100 years, a rare Galápagos tortoise was considered all but extinct – until now

The 15 giant tortoises who were breeding in captivity, including Diego, will begin a quarantine process to ensure they do not bring invasive species back to their home island. Officials plan to release them back in the wild on Española in March.

Before joining the breeding program, Diego lived at the San Diego Zoo for 30 years. Galápagos officials say he is responsible for 40% of the tortoise population that now lives on the island. 

The island’s environment has also been restored in recent years to support the growing tortoise population, including the eradication of invasive species and the regrowth of cacti, a staple in the tortoise diet.

“There’s a feeling of happiness to have the possibility of returning that tortoise to his natural state,” Jorge Carrión, the director of the Galapagos National Park, told the AFP.

The Española tortoise species is one of 15 giant tortoise species that have been identified across the Galápagos Islands. All are endangered or vulnerable or have gone extinct. In 2012, another famous tortoise – Lonesome George – died, marking the extinction of the Pinta Island tortoise.

Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

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