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Diego the sex machine tortoise retires from the playboy life

After fathering hundreds of babies and saving his species, the big daddy of the Galápagos is ready for a rest.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper

Even the big daddy of tortoises gets to retire. Diego, the loverboy tortoise who helped save his species by making lots and lots of babies, will now be returned to the wild. The 175-pound, 35-inch (80 kilogram, 90 centimeter) Casanova has fathered at least 800 children, according to Agence France Presse. That's about 40% of the giant tortoise population in the Galápagos Islands. He's earned his retirement.

Diego was named for the San Diego Zoo, where he lived before being sent to the Galápagos to begin his breeding work in 1977. When he started his campaign of promiscuity, there were just two males and 12 females of his species alive on the island.

"He's a very sexually active male reproducer. He's contributed enormously to repopulating the island," Washington Tapia, a tortoise preservation specialist at Galápagos National Park, told AFP back in 2016.

And he has online fans. "When I was in Galápagos -- everywhere they celebrated and spoke of 'Diego' -- a true legend!" wrote one Twitter user.

Before heading to the island of Española from his current home at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island, Diego will undergo a quarantine period to make sure he doesn't spread non-native flora to his retirement home.