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Diego the sex-crazed tortoise retires after saving his species

Diego the male Espanola Island giant tortoise is shown on Santa Cruz Island.
Diego the male Espanola Island giant tortoise is shown on Santa Cruz Island. Parque Nacional Galapagos/Facebook

Diego the Espanola Island tortoise has had a very long, very sex-filled life — but nothing lasts forever. Not even a horny tortoise.

The centenarian with the unstoppable libido will soon be released back into the wild after spending the last three decades as the stud in a breeding program that saved his species.

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The Galapagos Conservancy says it’s closing that breeding program and allowing Diego to retire to the Galapagos Islands now that he has helped bring the Espanola Island tortoises back from the brink of extinction.

Diego, a tortoise of the endangered Chelonoidis hoodensis subspecies from Espanola Island, is seen in a breeding centre at the Galapagos National Park on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos archipelago, located some 1,000 kilometres off Ecuador’s coast, on Sept. 10, 2016.
Diego, a tortoise of the endangered Chelonoidis hoodensis subspecies from Espanola Island, is seen in a breeding centre at the Galapagos National Park on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos archipelago, located some 1,000 kilometres off Ecuador’s coast, on Sept. 10, 2016. RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images

Diego was one of only 15 surviving members of his species in 1976 when the Galapagos Conservancy introduced him to its breeding program. Diego joined two males and 12 females in the program and quickly became their sex god, cranking out hundreds of offspring at the Santa Cruz breeding facility over the course of 30 years.

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There are now 2,000 Espanola Island tortoises alive today, according to Galapagos National Park director Jorge Carrion.

“He’s contributed a large percentage to the lineage that we are returning to Espanola,” Carrion told the AFP.

Approximately 40 per cent of all living Espanola Island giant tortoises are related to Diego, environmentalist James P. Gibbs told the New York Times.

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Gibbs credits Diego’s success to his “big personality.” He says the tortoise is “quite aggressive, active and vocal in his mating habits, and so I think he has gotten most of the attention.”

However, he’s not the most successful tortoise. One of the other males, who is known only as E5, helped spawn 60 per cent of the total tortoise population, Gibbs said. The third male has contributed virtually nothing to the repopulation efforts.

“It clearly is the other quieter male that has had much more success,” Gibbs said. He added that the quieter male wasn’t nearly as showy with his mating habits as Diego.

“Maybe he prefers to mate more at night.”

Diego is the playboy success story that his cousin, the famous Lonesome George, was not. The latter turtle died out in 2012 during a failed breeding program to preserve his species, Chelonoidis abingdonii.

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Diego’s species, Chelonoidis hoodensis, fared far better under similar efforts.

Diego is thought to be more than 100 years old, though his exact age is unknown. It’s believed that he’s spent the better part of his life in captivity, including the last 30 years in the breeding program.

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Diego was at the San Diego Zoo while his species nearly died out in the wild due to tourism, overfishing and the introduction of goats in the Galapagos.

The Galapagos Conservancy says there are now enough tortoises in the wild for the population to thrive on its own, thanks in large part to Diego’s insatiable efforts.

Tortoise believed to be extinct found on Galapagos islands
Tortoise believed to be extinct found on Galapagos islands

It’s unclear how much longer Diego has to live, but there’s no guarantee that he will stop his sexcapades in retirement.

He’s heading back to a Galapagos island chain that’s suddenly teeming with lady tortoises — many of whom are not related to him.

“He might actually amp it up,” Gibbs told the Washington Post in a separate interview. “We shall see.”