PUERTO AYORA (ECUADOR) (AFP) –
He’s over 100 years old, but his sex life is the stuff of legend. Diego the Tortoise is quite the ladies’ man, and his exploits have helped save his species from extinction.
Diego, a Galapagos giant tortoise, has fathered an estimated 800 offspring, almost single-handedly rebuilding the species’ population on their native island, Espanola, the southernmost in the Galapagos Archipelago.
“He’s a very sexually active male reproducer. He’s contributed enormously to repopulating the island,” said Washington Tapia, a tortoise preservation specialist at Galapagos National Park.
Diego is a Chelonoidis hoodensis, a species found in the wild only on Espanola.
The island is one of the oldest in the Galapagos, the Pacific archipelago made famous by Charles Darwin’s studies of its breathtaking biodiversity.
Around 50 years ago, there were only two males and 12 females of Diego’s species alive on Espanola, and they were too spread out to reproduce.
He has done more than any other tortoise to turn that around — with the help of his mates, of course.
Diego lives at a tortoise breeding center on Santa Cruz Island, one of the largest in the Galapagos.
He is the dominant male of the three assigned to repopulate Espanola.
He shares his enclosure with six females, his partners in the task of saving their species.