Giant Tortoise Fathers 800 Babies, Saving Its Species
A giant tortoise has fathered 800 babies, saving its species from extinction.
Diego was one of a group of tortoises who were chosen in the 1960s to take part in a breeding programme on Santa Cruz Island, off the southwestern coast of California.
At the time, there were only two males and 12 females of the same species as Diego, the Chelonoidis hoodensis, alive on the island of Española in the Galápagos.
The Lothario was living in captivity at San Diego Zoo when he was selected to take part in the breeding programme.
Now, more than 50 years since it began, and after successfully producing more than 2,000 baby giant tortoises, Ecuador's Environmental Ministry has decided to bring the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative to an end.
The good news was confirmed by a conservationists at Galápagos National Parks.
Washington Tapia, director of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative (GTRI), confirmed there were now "sufficient conditions" for the turtle population to return to normal.
He said: "Based on the results of the last census conducted at the end of 2019 and all the data available since 1960, both of the island and its turtle population, we developed mathematical models with different possible scenarios for the next hundred years and in all the conclusion was that the island has sufficient conditions to keep the turtle population that will continue to grow normally, even without any new repatriation of juveniles."
The Director of the Galapagos National Park, Jorge Carrión, went on to say that the tortoise programme, along with the 'regeneration of cacti', have helped balance the island's ecosystem.
He added: "In addition to the recovery of the giant turtle population, which went from 15 to 2000 thanks to this program, the management actions implemented for the ecological restoration of the island, such as the eradication of introduced species and the regeneration of cacti through Galápagos Verde 2050 project, have helped to ensure that the island's ecosystems currently have adequate conditions to support the growing population of turtles."
Over the years, old Diego - who is now more than 100 years old - has become something of a pin-up for the conservation scheme, with around 40 percent of the tortoises repatriated to the island said to be related to him.
But after more than eight decades away from his homeland, Diego, along with the other 14 original breeders, is set to return to the wild.
This past week, the quarantine process began to help 'eliminate risks of seed dispersal from plants that are not typical of the island' once Diego and his buddies return. The aim is to release them back on Española, their island of origin, in March this year.
Top work, Diego, top work.
Featured Image Credit: Galapagos National Park