A centenarian tortoise is hailed hero for saving his own race from extinction as he fathered 800 new generation of Galápagos tortoise.

Meet Diego, the “lady’s man” tortoise responsible for saving his entire species.

Diego is one of the endangered Galápagos giant tortoise, the largest living species of tortoise found only on Galapagos Island.

In 1970’s, the endangered tortoises face the possibility of extinction. Only two males and 12 females of his kin were left then, and they were too spread out to reproduce.

Then came Diego and saved the day.

Diego was found at the San Diego Zoo (in which he gets his name) — after Chelonoidis hoodensis was first recognized. An international campaign was launched to find more of the rare tortoises which are unique to Espanola.

Diego weighs about 80 kilograms is nearly 90 centimeters long and 1.5 meters tall if he really stretches his legs and neck.
Photo: Rodrigo Buendia / Agence France-Presse

No one knows for certain when or how he arrived in the United States. “He must have been taken from Espanola sometime between 1900 and 1959 by a scientific expedition,” said Washington Tapia, a tortoise preservation specialist at Galapagos National Park.

He stayed as one of the zoo’s main attractions and was brought back to the Galapagos in 1977 in hope to breed and add to the dwindling number of wild tortoises.

Diego currently lives at a tortoise breeding center on Santa Cruz Island, in the Galapagos archipelago, located some 1,000km off Ecuador’s coast. Santa Cruz is one of the oldest and largest in the Galapagos, the Pacific archipelago made famous by Charles Darwin’s studies of its breathtaking biodiversity.

Amazingly, Diego did a good work after fathering 800 progenies.
Photo: Notey

A study suggests that he is the sole father of almost 40 percent of the offspring, in which all of them were released into the wild on Espanola.

“He’ll keep reproducing until death,” said Freddy Villalva, who watches over Diego.

Diego proved to be a lady’s man and almost single-handedly saves his entire clan.

In all, around 2,000 tortoises have been released on the small island and the species is no longer facing extinction.

Photo: Getty Images

Though Mr. Tapia said: “I wouldn’t say (the species) is in perfect health because historical records show there probably used to be more than 5,000 tortoises on the island. But it’s a population that’s in pretty good shape — and growing, which is the most important.”

There are 15 species of giant tortoise known to have originated in the Galapagos island, three of them are already extinct.

Diego’s species has also been introduced on the island of Santa Fe, where a genetically similar one, Chelonoidis spp, disappeared more than 150 years ago.

Thanks to Diego’s sexual appetite, he did save his entire race from the brink of extinction.

Via: The National