A 100-year-old tortoise with an unusually strong libido is being credited with saving his entire species from extinction, and now has earned his release back into the wild.
As CNN reported, scientists have credited the “womanizing” tortoise named Diego with the survival of fellow giant tortoises on the island of Espanola in the Galapagos Islands. Diego had been shipped over from the San Diego Zoo as part of a program to breed the animals, and he brought incredible results.
As the report noted, there were just two males and 12 females of the species left at the time Diego was brought to the island. But Diego was so procreative that the population has now jumped to more than 2,000. The 100-year-old tortoise is directly responsible for 40 percent of the total population, the Galapagos National Parks service said.
The report noted that Diego is credited with single-handedly saving his species from extinction, and now has earned his release back into the wild.
“He’s contributed a large percentage to the lineage that we are returning to Espanola,” said Jorge Carrion, the park’s director. “There’s a feeling of happiness to have the possibility of returning that tortoise to his natural state.”
As the BBC noted, Diego is believed to have directly fathered close to 800 tortoises on the island. The report detailed that Diego’s release into the wild will return him to his original home. The park service said the tortoise was believed to have been taken from the Galapagos close to 80 years ago after he was captured during a scientific expedition.
Diego could still have quite a bit of time left ahead of him. Giant tortoises are known to have unusually long life spans, with some doubling the life of Diego’s. As Slate noted, a 255-year-old giant tortoise died in 2006 after being captured in the 1700s and given as a gift.
As the report noted, the long life spans are an evolutionary advantage for the animals due to the fact that, outside of Diego, they are not known to procreate very often.
“It makes sense to stick around if you live in an unpredictable or harsh environment where it’s hard to reproduce on a regular basis. (Desert animals, for example, tend to get quite old before they die.) You’d also want to have a long life if you could only give birth infrequently for some other reason, or if you spent a lot of time caring for each of your offspring,” the report noted.