Galapagos tortoise’s savior is a dirty, dirty old man
THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS- The most tireless and passionate proponent of saving the Galapagos tortoise from extinction is ancient, lecherous, and not particularly attractive, but those attributes are apparently a big hit with the ladies.
Gentle reader, meet Diego, the lusty 100-plus-year-old tortoise who has helped bring his kind back from the brink of extinction—by having copious amounts of sex with any female in sight, reports the AFP.
“He’s a very sexually active male reproducer,” says Washington Tapia, an actual tortoise preservation specialist at Galapagos National Park. “He’s contributing enormously to repopulating the island.” How enormously? Diego is babydaddy to an estimated 800 offspring, or to better put it, a genetic test four years ago showed “that he was the father of nearly 40% of the offspring released into the wild on Espanola,” the tortoises’ native island.
Diego is a globe-trotting charmer, taking his name from the San Diego Zoo, where Tapia says he was taken “sometime between 1900 and 1959 by a scientific expedition.” He was returned to the Galapagos Islands in 1976 to get down to work in a captive breeding program, as his kind had at one point dwindled to two males and 12 females on Espanola.
Diego, it turns out, takes his job seriously. “Tough work, but some tortoise has to do it,” the AFP snarks, while the Houston Chronicle runs through a primer on tortoise mating that includes the tidbit that “female giant tortoises are silent while the males make a sound similar to that of a cow’s ‘moo.'” Today, at least 2,000 tortoises have been released into the wild.
“It’s a population that’s in pretty good shape, and growing, which is the most important,” Tapia says. (More on the Galapagos tortoises’ fight back from the brink here.)