(TMU) – After fathering hundreds and ‘saving its species from extinction’ a sex-crazed tortoise named Diego, has been praised for saving his entire species, and has retired to his homeland, the Galápagos Islands.
After retiring from the Galápagos National Park’s breeding program on Santa Cruz Island, Ecuador’s environmental minister, Paulo Proaño Andrade, has said that it’s the ‘end of an era’.
He said: “We are closing an important chapter.”
“There’s a feeling of happiness to have the possibility of returning that tortoise to his natural state.”
Considering the delicate ecosystem, Diego and the other tortoises he was released with were held in quarantine to avoid transferring any plant matter from the other island.
It is believed that Diego was taken from the Galápagos to the San Diego Zoo in California by a scientific expedition some 80 years ago. After 30 years at the zoo, he was transferred to Santa Cruz Island where he was placed in a breeding program with 15 other tortoises.
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When they were initially removed from their natural habitat, there were only two males and 12 females left of Diego’s species, the Chelonoidis hoodensis or the Hood Island giant tortoise.
National Geographic, in describing Galápagos tortoises, 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.”
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The Galápagos is made up of 19 islands in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 1,000km from the continent of South America and is a province of Ecuador. The island’s isolated terrain contains a diversity of plant and animal species, many of which are not found anywhere else in the world.
After his visit to the archipelago in 1835 and his observation of Galápagos’ species, Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was born.
The islands and surrounding marine reserve are considered unique and seen as a living museum and showcase of evolution.
Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the Galápagos are a ‘melting pot’ of marine species.
The ongoing seismic and volcanic activity mirrors the processes that formed these islands, which, together with its extreme isolation of the islands, led to the development of unusual animal life such as the giant tortoise, land iguana, marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, and many subspecies of mockingbirds and finches, and plants such as huge cacti and endemic trees.