The Galapagos tortoises are fascinating creatures native to the seven Galapagos islands in the volcanic archipelago west of the Ecuadorian mainland. These friendly giants almost date back to prehistoric times and are the biggest of the tortoise species in the world.
They can go without food or water for a whole year and do not have a natural predator. But despite these positive factors, their numbers have plummeted because of nonnative species eating their eggs as well as pirates, whalers, and merchantmen hunting them for meat.
Around 50 years ago, only 12 females of Chelonoidis hoodensis can be found in Española. Thankfully, San Diego Zoo signed up Diego to a breeding program way back in the 1960s.
If it weren’t for Diego, his entire kind would only be seen in history and science books. Thanks to his ‘natural charm’, he may have saved his fellow tortoises from the brink of extinction.
The 100-year-old tortoise will come home a hero and a father of over 2,000. Diego is responsible for the thriving population of Española’s native reptiles. Out of the total number of newborn tortoises, 800 are Diego’s.
“He’s contributed a large percentage to the lineage that we are returning to Española,” park director Jorge Carrion said. “There’s a feeling of happiness to have the possibility of returning that tortoise to his natural state.”
Out of the 15 tortoises that participated in the program, none of them were as ‘active’ as Diego. With the fate of his kind hanging in the balance, the 100-year old tortoise put his ‘charm’ to good use for the sake of his progeny.
Despite his old age, Diego still knows his way around the ladies. He had so much intercourse than the other participating tortoises that he became the patriarch of the 40% of the giant tortoises on the island.
Now that the breeding program has come to its end, the reptile Casanova is bound to return home after almost 6 decades of ‘spreading his love’. Retired, Diego will be reunited with the rest of Galapagos tortoises he helped to save.
But before the mighty progenitor sets his feet sets on his homeland, he needs to undergo quarantine. His health stronger than ever, expect Diego to father more baby tortoises once he’s released.
The Galapagos Islands are home to extraordinary animal species ranging from tortoises, iguanas, sharks, and sea lions to 26 species of native birds.
The island’s unique fauna and mesmerizing biodiversity attracted the proponent of the theory of natural selection, Charles Darwin. Thought it is quite ironic that even Darwin himself went to dine on the flesh of Diego’s ancestors.
Today, the Galapagos Islands are part of the UNESCO’s World Cultural and Natural Heritage. It is now protected from any threat, especially from poachers and pirates who do not mean well to the islands’ inhabitants.
Find out more about Diego and watch the video below: