After being gradually reduced in number, the Spanish giant tortoise (Chelonoidis hoodensis) was on the verge of extinction. In the 1970s, there were only a dozen specimens left on Galapagos Island, mostly females.
However, they introduced Diego and his extreme sexual drive, and everything changed for this endemic species on the island of Española, in the archipelago of the Galapagos Islands.
Hispaniola is, with about 300 million years, the oldest of the islands that make up the Ecuadorian archipelago of the Galapagos Islands, being originated by geological survey and not by volcanic origin. The cacti of the genus Opuntia have 6 species and 14 subspecies in the archipelago, all of them are endemic, being key components of the coastal, arid and transition ecosystems up to 200 meters above sea level. They are an important part of the turtle’s diet.
Brought to the Galapagos from the San Diego Zoo in 1976, Diego went on to sire more than 800 pups . His considerable effort helped his species to recover, reaching a population of 2,000 individuals .
After his strenuous effort, the time has come for Diego to enjoy a well-deserved rest and to retire. To do this, Galapagos National Park officials announced on Friday that the breeding program has been so successful that it can be concluded. Diego, who is believed to be over 100 years old, will be released from captivity and returned to the wild :
Little is known about the first years of Diego’s life . This long-necked, yellow-faced tortoise is believed to have been collected in Española during a scientific expedition sometime between 1900 and 1959. Later, it would arrive at the zoo. When scientists discovered that it was a hoodensis, and that Diego was one of the few that still existed, they brought him to Galapagos.
The turtles were almost extinct after serving as food for whalers, settlers, and other travelers who passed through the islands. It didn’t help that the settlers introduced goats, which depleted the cacti that the huge tortoises depended on for food, water, and shade.
However, with Diego being responsible for approximately 40 percent of turtles, there is a debate among scientists about the consequences of having such a small genetic pool .