News | Environment
18 Jan 2020 11:34
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  •   Home > News > Environment

    Galapagos giant tortoise Diego returning home after helping to save species

    Diego has been away from his home of Espanosa for most of his life, almost 80 years, but now at the age of 100 he's set to return to the southern-most Galapagos island where nearly 40 per cent of the population are his progeny.


    When your sexploits almost single-handedly save your species, it is only fair you get to return home to the wild and see the fruits of your labour.

    And so it is for Diego, a Galapagos giant tortoise who is set to return to Espanola, the southern-most island in the Galapagos, where it is believed as much as 40 per cent of the population are his offspring.

    It will be the first time the prolific procreator sets foot on his home island after being removed about 80 years ago as part of a scientific expedition.

    About 50 years ago, there were only two males and 12 females of Diego's species alive on Espanola and he was selected to take part in a breeding program on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos, aimed at saving his species, Chelonoidis hoodensis.

    The program has been a success, producing more than 2,000 giant tortoises since it began in the 1960s, and the species is no longer facing extinction.

    Diego's sex drive is said to be one of the main reasons.

    The 100-year-old tortoise, who tips the scales at about 80 kilograms and is nearly 90 centimetres long and 1.5 metres tall when stretching his legs and neck, has fathered hundreds of progeny, about 800 by some estimates.

    The program has now finished and Diego will be returned to Espanola in March, the Galapagos National Parks service (PNG) said.

    "He's contributed a large percentage to the lineage that we are returning to Espanola," Jorge Carrion, the park's director, told AFP news agency.

    "There's a feeling of happiness to have the possibility of returning that tortoise to his natural state."

    Such is the delicate balance of each island in the Galapagos that Diego is currently in quarantine before his return home.

    The islands, 906km west of continental Ecuador, are a Unesco World Heritage site renowned worldwide for their unique array of plants and wildlife, including seals, iguanas, tortoises and birds. They are understood to have played a key role in the development of Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

    Tourism for the islands increased 14 per cent in 2018, with visitors to the biologically unique islands hitting about 275,000 people.


    ABC




    © 2020 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


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