NEWS
13/01/2020 3:42 PM AEDT | Updated 13/01/2020 3:47 PM AEDT

Diego The Tortoise’s Sex Drive Saved His Species From Extinction. Now He's Retiring

The 100-year-old's libido has led to the giant reptile fathering 800 children, bringing his breed back from the brink.

A libidinous 100-year-old tortoise called Diego is to return to the wild after being celebrated for saving his species from extinction.

In the 1960s, Diego was recruited along with 14 other giant tortoises for a captive breeding programme on the Galápagos Islands, the volcanic archipelago hundreds of miles off the Ecuador coast.

At the time, this was almost the entirety of the endangered Chelonoidis hoodensis subspecies of tortoise.

The animals, over time, had been driven to the brink of extinction, initially by humans who saw them as a food source, and later by rats, pigs and dogs who preyed on them.

RODRIGO BUENDIA via Getty Images

But the programme has been such an unmitigated success that the population has swelled to over 2,000, and Diego’s sex drive has been credited with the surge.

According to some estimates, Diego has fathered 800 children. Put another way, 40% of the population are estimated to be Diego’s descendants.

The reptile Romeo will now leave the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center on the island of Santa Cruz and retire to his native island of Española, the Galápagos National Parks service has announced.

“He’s contributed a large percentage to the lineage that we are returning to Española,” Jorge Carrion, the director of the Galapagos National Parks service, told the AFP news agency.

“There’s a feeling of happiness to have the possibility of returning that tortoise to his natural state.”