Sex machine: prolific Galápagos tortoise saves his species finally retires
Giant tortoise, whose reproductive efforts almost single-handedly saved his species, has been moved to an uninhabited island
Diego fathered an estimated 800 offspring on Santa Cruz Island, Galápagos, Ecuador. He has been retired and returned to his original habitat on Española Island Photograph: AP
Diego, the giant Galápagos tortoise whose tireless efforts are credited with almost single-handedly saving his once-threatened species, has been put out to pasture on his native island after decades of breeding in captivity, Ecuador’s environment minister said.
Diego was shipped out from the Galápagos national park’s breeding program on Santa Cruz to the remote and uninhabited Española.
“We are closing an important chapter” in the management of the park, minister Paulo Proano said on Twitter, adding that 25 tortoises including the prolific Diego “are going back home after decades of reproducing in captivity and saving their species from extinction”.
Española welcomed them “with open arms,” he said.
Before being taken back by boat to Española, the 100-year-old Diego and the other tortoises had to undergo a quarantine period to avoid them carrying seeds from plants that are not native to the island.
Diego weighs about 80kg (175 pounds), is nearly 90cm (35 inches) long and 1.5 meters (five feet) tall, if he stretches his legs and neck.
Diego’s contribution to the program on Santa Cruz Island was particularly noteworthy, with park rangers believing him responsible for being the patriarch of at least 40% of the 2,000-tortoise population.
Around 50 years ago, there were only two males and 12 females of Diego’s species alive on Española, and they were too spread out to reproduce.
Diego was brought in from California’s San Diego Zoo to join the breeding program which was set up in the mid-1960s to save his species, Chelonoidis hoodensis.
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