At one time there were an estimated 5,000 tortoises living on the island of Espanola.  But by 1970, there were only two males and 12 females.  The giant tortoise population was on the brink of extinction.

They were hunted for food by humans and also preyed upon by rats, pigs and dogs.  Goats and monkeys also destroyed their habitat.

When the experts at the San Diego Zoo found out about the near extinction of this rare breed of giant tortoise, they made a bold move. . .

The zoo had a 100 year old tortoise named Diego.  He was the rare breed, Chelonoidis Hoodensis, that had formerly populated Espanola.  So they shipped Diego to the island hoping that he would produce some offspring.

Diego did even more than they could have imagined!

This 100-year-old tortoise fathered an estimated 800 offspring. . .

He has single-handedly pulled his species off of the extinction list!

There are now more than 2,000 tortoises on the island. . .40% of those are Diego’s offspring!  It’s no small task to get animals to mate in the wild.  Just ask the specialists who desperately try to get Pandas to cooperate.  But Diego had no trouble at all.

Washington Tapia, a tortoise specialist at Galapagos National Park, said “He’s a very sexually active male reproducer.”

As Diego’s Ninja Turtle Cousins might say, “Cowabunga Dude!”