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Diego the Tortoise Retires after Having Enough Sex to Save His Species

The giant tortoise was held in a breeding program for decades and became a media celebrity.

Say what you will about the millennial sex recession, but Diego the tortoise had enough intercourse to help save his species and earn retirement.

The Chelonoidis hoodensis tortoise native to the Pacific, and longtime resident of a breeding and conservation program, has been lauded for promoting the survival of his fellow giant tortoises. The 100-year-old tortoise reportedly mated like it was quite literally his job and has fathered more than 800 babies.

It’s been a long haul: Diego was taken from his native Española island and moved to the San Diego Zoo in 1933 for scientific research. Decades later, he was brought back to the Galápagos Islands, which is home to the tortoise restoration breeding program.

When the breeding program began, Diego’s species included about 14 living tortoises — it’s now counted at more than 2,000. 

Of only three male tortoises in the breeding program, Diego is estimated to have produced 40 percent of the offspring, compared to two other tortoises who produced 60 percent and zero percent, respectively. The leading tortoise was reportedly more “reserved, [and] less charismatic.”

A professor of environmental and forest biology familiar with Diego attributed his second-best prowess in the New York Times to  “a big personality — quite aggressive, active and vocal in his mating habits and so I think he has gotten most of the attention.” 

That attention was only buoyed by humans; a 2017 profile of Diego celebrated his sex drive and role in the world’s “laboratory of evolution.”

The Galápagos National Park announced that it’s ending the breeding program, as it determined there are enough tortoises to naturally maintain the population. Diego will return to his native Española Island in March to live out the rest of his days.

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