A five hour long journey by boat and then on to a rangers backpack, Diego, the giant tortoise who helped save his species from extinction, at last reached his native Española Island in the archipelago of Galápagos. Diego finally returned to his native island 87 years after he left to participate for a breeding programme in captivity.
Diego, the giant is now over 100 years old. It had been residing in the confinements of a zoo and in a conservation centre for the past eight decades. During his zoo life, he had fathered about 800 offspring. And now with 100 years, the authorities felt it good for the big daddy to rest for a while.
The Galapagos National Park on June 15 started the release of Diego and 14 other giant tortoises into the wild. They had been part of a programme from the 1960s for recovering the Chelonoidis hoodensis population in Española Island. Their numbers had come down to 15 at that time.
Of all the tortoises, Diego stood apart. He was known for his fertility and his caretakers have said that the big daddy was smart and very active than the others.
Diego became famous after the park announced in 2016 that he had fathered 40 per cent of all the tortoises now in Espanol.
Galapagos islands were know for 14 species of giant tortoises. The island itself is famous for inspiring Charles Darwin´s theories of evolution and natural selection.
Meanwhile, Galápagos National Park director Danny Rueda said that that the Española breeding programme was a good example of conservation success story. With only just 15 species left, Ruedasaid they could now have thousands of giant tortoises. Moreover, they are also planning to shut down the programme as the species have started natural reproduction. The Ministry of Environment of Ecuador took the decision to shift the tortoises after a census in 2019. The census showed that the island had sufficient conditions to maintain the tortoise population.
Diego and the other 14 tortoises now be monitored by GPS trackers and 40 camera traps.
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