A 100-year-old tortoise has been credited as the savior of his species. The centenarian reptile single-handedly managed to sire more than 800 offspring.
A sex-crazed giant tortoise from the Galapagos Islands is being applauded for saving his entire subspecies with his insatiable libido. The tortoise, believed to be at least 100-years-old, has fathered an estimated 800 offspring and appears in no mood to slow down or stop despite his advanced age.
The Galapagos giant tortoise is named Diego and belongs to the Chelonoidis hoodensis subspecies. The extremely endangered species is found only on Espanola in the Galapagos Islands. The urgency to save the species from certain extinction is evident from the fact that about 50 years ago, there were only two males and a dozen females.
From a scientific perspective it was certain that the species won’t survive the next few decades. Researchers term such low numbers as “unsustainable population.” It essentially means the species will go extinct even if the females do procreate. This is because the decline is relatively faster than newer generations can continue to bear offspring. Moreover, the natural predators often kill the newborns, thus severely restricting population growth.
In the case of Chelonoidis hoodensis, the tortoises were spread too far apart to mate on a regular basis. Long distance relations do not work in this species and hence scientists were extremely worried about them. Everybody was certain the species would be soon be lost forever.
However, Diego proved everyone wrong and surprised the entire scientific community by mating with amazing alacrity. Supported by Diego’s unwavering stamina to impregnate the six females in his enclosure consistently, a breeding program has ensured the tortoise bounced back. So far, Diego has officially sired 800 offspring, and the new generations have further procreated. Once critically endangered, the Galapagos giant tortoise now number in the thousands, said Washington Tapia, a tortoise specialist at Galapagos National Park.
“He’s a very sexually active male reproducer. He’s contributed enormously to repopulating the island.”
Just how virile is Diego? Genetic testing of the tortoises roaming Espanola has indicated Diego is the father to at least 40 percent of the population. In essence, the whole species owes its survival to this one sexually active tortoise. He is the dominant male of the three tasked with repopulating the island. The females often submit meekly, thereby allowing him to impregnate them with relative impunity, despite his advanced age. He shares his enclosure with six females and they too are accredited for saving the species.
Espanola is one of the oldest in the Galapagos Islands. The Pacific archipelago became famous through the studies and chronicles of the father of evolutionary science Charles Darwin. The islands feature one of the biggest bio-diversities in the entire world. Unfortunately, majority of the islands are steadily losing endangered species, despite being protected under federal laws.
For a ripe age of 100, Diego is surprisingly agile. He was found at the San Diego Zoo was named after it. After Diego was confirmed to belong to the critically endangered subspecies, conservation efforts through an international campaign began. The project involved finding more members of the rare tortoises. Speaking about Diego’s origin, Tapia said the following.
“We don’t know exactly how or when he arrived in the United States. He must have been taken from Espanola sometime between 1900 and 1959 by a scientific expedition.”
Diego was swiftly transferred to Galapagos in 1976 and put in the captive breeding program. To date, the program has successfully released about 2,000 tortoises on the island. Though the species isn’t critically endangered anymore, it is still threatened. Originally, the islands had 15 species of tortoise, but three have gone extinct, while others remain endangered.
[Featured Image by David Silverman/Getty Images]