Sex-Mad Tortoise Who Saved His Species From Extinction Has Retired
Diego the Galápagos tortoise has been retired from the Galápagos national park's breeding programme on Santa Cruz island. Ecuador's environment minister Paulo Proaño Andrade has said that it's the 'end of an era'.
He said: "We are closing an important chapter."
Diego has been breeding in captivity to save the species from extinction for decades, but was sent yesterday (15 June) to live out the rest of his days in his native home, the uninhabited island of Española, along with 14 other male tortoises.
Park rangers said that Diego has fathered at least 40 percent of the 2,000 tortoises that live there, thanks to his high libido.
Now aged 100, he weighs 175 pounds (80kg) and has been hailed for saving his species.
Jorge Carrion, the park's director, told AFP news agency: "He's contributed a large percentage to the lineage that we are returning to Española.
"There's a feeling of happiness to have the possibility of returning that tortoise to his natural state."
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In order to protect the delicate ecosystem of the small island, Diego and the other tortoises that he was released with were quarantined, to avoid transferring any plants from the other island.
The park service believes that Diego was taken from the Galápagos around 80 years ago by a scientific expedition.
He was then taken to San Diego Zoo in California before being moved to Santa Cruz island about 50 years ago. It was there that he was placed on a breeding program with 15 other tortoises.
When they were first taken, there were only two males and 12 females of Diego's species - Chelonoidis hoodensis or the Hood Island giant tortoise - in their natural habitat.
Describing Galápagos tortoises, National Geographic writes: "It is possible, though perhaps unlikely, that among the remaining giant tortoises of the Galápagos Islands, there exists an old-timer that was a hatchling at the time of Charles Darwin's famous visit in 1835.
"Giant tortoises are the longest-lived of all vertebrates, averaging over 100 years. The oldest on record lived to be 152."
The indigenous species of animals that were first found on the Galápagos, including iguanas and tortoises, are said to have played a key role in the development of Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution.
Featured Image Credit: AP/Shutterstock
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