Most professionals considered the giant Española tortoise to be a species that was beyond saving.

There was a rapid decline in these tortoises for a couple of decades to the point that only a select few of them remained in the Galapagos Island during the 1970s.

A major portion of these tortoises comprises of females. They were so scarce that most of them did not even have encounters with other tortoises for an extensive period, which is why extinction seemed imminent.

This is where Diego stepped in. Bought in during 1976 from the well-recognized San Diego Zoo, this particular tortoise became famous for his unusually high s*x drive.

If there were any doubters of this tortoise’s s*x drive, the 800 offspring that Diego fathered would argue otherwise.

This tortoise made a remarkable effort in making sure that his species, scientifically referred to as Chelonoidishoondensis, did not go extinct.

Because of Diego’s efforts, the species saw a remarkable increase in population, which eventually rose to 2,000 tortoises.

Diego’s Retirement – Leaving Behind A Legacy

Diego captured the headlines of numerous news channels, papers, and internet blog when he “retired.” Galapagos National Park was the one to announce his retirement.

The reason they made this decision is they believed the breeding program turned out to be a huge success.

Scientists believed that Diego’s age was way over one hundred years, and the time had come to let him free from his captivity and let him go back to the wild where he could enjoy his freedom.

That said, the people who looked after Diego claimed that leaving captivity would not slow Diego’s s*x drive in any way.

In fact, according to James P. Gibbs, who is a professor of forest and environmental biology at Syracuse’ State University of New York, Diego’s s*x drive might even increase.

Early Life

Despite being under close observation for a long time, there is very little information regarding Diego’s early days.

However, according to what most people speculate, experts picked up this yellow faced and long necked tortoise somewhere around 1900 and 1960.

The purpose of picking Diego up is likely scientific expedition, after which he landed inside a zoo.

Later on, when scientists found out that hoodensis is actually a rare species and Diego happened to be among a select few that still existed, they bought him back for breeding in Galapagos.

As discussed earlier, the tortoise species almost died out according to James P Gibbs.

He also said that Diego is more than just a story and a name, distinctive in every way possible.

He had a bold personality. In addition, his large yellow neck and broken scutes made him stand out.

Being responsible for almost forty percent of the species produced during the breeding program, a fair share of scientists speculates about the consequences of gene pools as small as this turtle’s.

They also stated that the bottleneck effect is quite troublesome and its long-term effects will only reveal themselves as time passes.

Why Did The Species Die Out?

According to the people who were studying and observing the hoodensis species, which also included Gibbs – the species almost died out because a large number of colonists and whalers used them for food whenever they were passing through the islands.

In addition, numerous colonists began to bring goats along with them. These goats mostly ate cactus, which the turtles mostly relied for shade, water, and food.

The Failure Of A Similar Breeding Program

Although the breeding program that Diego was in turned out to be a massive success, there was a not so successful program with a tortoise aptly named Lonesome George.

Sadly, Lonesome George died during 2012 and is the last remaining Chelonidisabingdoni specie.



This tortoise remained part of mating attempts for a number of decades. Sadly, however, he did not get even close to the success that Diego gained in his specie saving attempts.

After Lonesome George’s sad demise and autopsy revealed that lack of potency is not the reason why this tortoise’s reproductive efforts were going in vain, instead, there was an anatomical ailment with George’s reproductive organ that impeded his efforts.

Fortunately, however, Diego did not have any kind of ailments or difficulties.

The breeding facility was ideal for his lifestyle as it allowed him to live with his mates inside a corral, much akin to Hugh Hefner but in reptilian form.

Once again, Gibbs observed that Diego won over the tortoises of the opposite s*x who chose to mate with him.

Interestingly enough, Diego’s popularity is not exclusive for his particular species, as the tourists in Galapagos loved him equally, if not more.

Moreover, scientists considered Diego quite different to other tortoises, who are mostly reclusive.

He liked to explore his surroundings most of the time, and sometimes he even had fun interactions with the visitors. They would note that he hissed at them if they stared him for too long.

What Lies Ahead

In their statement, Galapagos National Park stated that their researchers decided to conclude release Diego and conclude their breeding program.

Their decision relied on mathematical models that predicted an increase in this species’ population in the next century.

They also concluded that the tortoises would have suitable conditions in the island to mate and continue increasing the population of their species.

Although there is no precise date for Diego’s release, he will likely get to enjoy his freedom in the next couple of months.

Before his release, however, Diego will go through a quarantining session to make sure that he does not carry plant seeds, which are not Española natives.

Gibbs says that the captors will release Diego along with the other tortoises held captive with him in the center of the island, an area that is rich with cacti.

Scientists and researchers also predict that Diego could live for twenty more years, given how active he is.

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