Diego of the giant Galapagos turtle whose tireless efforts are credited with almost single-handedly saving his time endangered species, was shelved Monday on his native island after decades of captive breeding, l ‘Ecuador, the Minister of the Environment said. Diego was shipped from the Galapagos National Park from the remote and uninhabited Espanola Santa Cruz Breeding Program.
“We are closing an important chapter” in park management, said Minister Paulo Proano on Twitter, adding that 25 turtles, including the prolific Diego, “are coming home after decades of breeding in captivity and saving their species from extinction. ”
Espanola, welcomed “with open arms”, he says.
Before being picked up by boat at Espanola, the 100-year-old Diego and the other turtles had to undergo a quarantine period to avoid transporting seeds from plants that were not native to the island.
Diego weighs around 80 kg (175 lb), is almost 90 cm (35 inches) long and 1.5 meters (five feet) tall, if he really stretches his legs and neck.
Diego’s contribution to the Santa Cruz Island program was particularly remarkable, with park rangers believing him responsible for being the patriarch of at least 40% of the 2,000 population of tortoises.
Around 50 years ago, there were only two males and 12 females of Diego species living on Espanola, and they were too dispersed to reproduce.
Diego was brought from California from San Diego Zoo to join the breeding program that was set up in the mid-1960s to save his species, Chelonoidis hoodensis.
The National Park believes that it was taken from the Galapagos in the first half of the 20th century, by a scientific expedition.
From the equator, the Galapagos Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean, were made famous by 19th century English naturalist Charles Darwin, their breathtaking studies of biodiversity.