100-Year-Old Galapagos Giant Tortoise To Be Released After Saving His Species
Diego, a 100-year-old Galapagos tortoise, has been credited for single-handedly saving his subspecies through a breeding program at the San Diego Zoo, and will be released to his native Santa Cruz Island in March, according to Newsweek.
Diego participated in the breeding program for almost eight decades and is believed to be the father of 40 percent of the 2,000 tortoises on the Española Island.
“He’s contributed a large percentage to the lineage that we are returning to Española,” Jorge Carrion, the director of the Galapagos National Parks, told France24.
In the mid-1960s, only twelve female tortoises and two male tortoises of Diego’s subspecies -- chelonoidis hoodensis -- existed on the island. Furthermore, their habitats were too far apart to facilitate breeding.
"About 1,800 tortoises have been returned to Española and now with natural reproduction we have approximately 2,000 tortoises," said Carrion. "This shows that they are able to grow, they are able to reproduce, they are able to develop."
Diego is set to undergo a quarantine period in order to ensure he won’t carry any seed pods from the mainland to Española and spread invasive species to the region.
“There’s a feeling of happiness to have the possibility of returning that tortoise to his natural state,” Carrion said.