14/09/2016 8:41 PM IST | Updated 14/09/2016 10:44 PM IST

Diego, Father Of 800, Has Single-Handedly Saved His Species From Extinction

He is the stuff of legends.

AFP/Getty Images
Tortoise 'Diego' in Santa Cruz Island.

He has been described as a lady's man, sex mad, the Don Juan of the Galapagos, and the stuff of legends. He is Diego, a 100-year-old tortoise, who has single-handedly saved his species from extinction by fathering more than 800 children.

Diego is a Chelonoidis hoodensis, a species of Galapagos tortoise found in the wild only on the island Espanola, off the coast of South America. AFP pointed out that the island is one of oldest in the Galapagos, the Pacific archipelago made famous by Charles Darwin.

"He's a very sexually active male reproducer. He's contributed enormously to repopulating the island," Washington Tapia, a tortoise preservation specialist at Galapagos National Park, told The National.

Fifty years before Diego came to the island, there were only two males and 12 females on the island, Daily Mail reported.

Diego was reportedly taken from Espanola sometime between 1900 and 1959 by a scientific expedition and located to San Diego Zoo, but he was brought back to to the Galapagos in 1976 and put in the captive breeding program. But it was only six years ago that scientists discovered how successful Diego had been in procreating.

"We did a genetic study and we discovered that he was the father of nearly 40 per cent of the offspring released into the wild on Espanola," said Tapia.

The National reported that Diego presently lives in an enclosure with six females at a tortoise breeding centre on Santa Cruz Island, one of the largest in the Galapagos.

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