Having done his bit to save his species by fathering hundreds of tortoises, Diego the Hood Island giant tortoise has been released back in to the wild at the age of 100.
The Hood Island giant tortoise (scientifically known as Chelonoidis hoodensis) is a subset of the Galapagos tortoise and is endemic to Espanola Island, which is part of the Galapagos Islands, situated off the coast of Ecuador.
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Diego’s tale is a remarkable one and his life story went full circle last week when he and 14 tortoise friends were released from Galapagos National Park’s breeding program on Santa Cruz, to the remote and uninhabited Espanola.
Cerramos un capítulo importante en la gestión del @parquegalapagos, 15 tortugas de #Española, incluyendo a #Diego, regresan a casa tras décadas de reproducirse en cautiverio y salvar a su especie de la extinción. Su isla las recibe con los brazos abiertos. (Noticia en desarrollo) pic.twitter.com/M4a4maQm9E
— Paulo Proaño Andrade (@PauloProanoA) June 15, 2020
It’s believed that sometime before 1950, Diego was captured on Espanola and taken to the San Diego zoo in the United States.
Subsequent to that, in the 1960’s, it was discovered that only two males and 12 female Hood Island giant tortoises remained on Espanola. This was after the area had been exploited by whalers and hunters.
To try and save the species, the Santa Cruz breeding program was established. Fortunately, Diego was discovered at the San Diego zoo and became legendary for his high libido – park rangers think that of the 2000 tortoises born at the breeding center, about 40% – 800, were fathered by him.
Muchas gracias a Freddy, Rafael, Johannes, Carlos, Fidelino, Wilson, Jeanpiere, Jhon, Stalyn, Danny, Marlon, Marcelo y a todo el equipo que hizo posible este que estas gigantes del #Ambiente vuelvan a su hogar. #DiegoVuelveACasa (2/2) pic.twitter.com/EXm7MXqU2h
— Paulo Proaño Andrade (@PauloProanoA) June 16, 2020
‘An important chapter’ for the Galapagos tortoise
“We are closing an important chapter in the management of the park,” said Ecuador environment minister Paulo Proano, “Fifteen tortoises from Española, including Diego, are going home after decades of breeding in captivity and saving their species from extinction. Their island receives them with open arms.”
Before they were dropped off by boat, Diego and the other tortoises were placed under quarantine – in order to avoid carrying alien plant seeds to Espanola Island.
Diego weighs approximately 80 kilograms and is about 90 centimeters long and 1.5 meters tall. Giant Galapagos tortoises have been recorded living up to 170 years old.
The Galapagos Islands are situated 900km west of Ecuador. Famous for their breathtakingly unique array of plants and wildlife, the islands are a Unesco World Heritage site. They first came to international attention through 19th Century English naturalist Charles Darwin.
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Image credits: Paulo Proano