Native to the islands with the same name, the Galapagos tortoise are the largest tortoise species, weighing up to 900 lb. The species was at the verge of extinction with ten individuals left in the wild, in the early 70’s. But it all has changed over the years, thanks to Diego, the last living male of the species.
When realized the species (Chelonoidis hoodensis) is nearly extinct, a group of researchers at the San Diego Zoo, the place where Diego was living at the time, decided to take him back to Espanola island as part of a breeding program.
Thankfully, Diego saved its species. “He’s contributed a large percentage to the lineage that we are returning to Espanola,” Jorge Carrion, the Espanola park’s director, told AFP. “There’s a feeling of happiness to have the possibility of returning that tortoise to his natural state.”
Since the breeding program started, back in 1976, Diego is responsible with the birth of over 2000 tortoise babies. And what’s more exciting is that his ‘lively libido’ managed to pull the species off the extinction list, AFP reported. “About 1,800 tortoises have been returned to Espanola and now with natural reproduction we have approximately 2,000 tortoises,” Carrion told AFP.
Weighing around 190 pounds, it is unclear how old Diego is, but according to the experts, he certainly is at least 100 years old. “We don’t know exactly how or when he arrived in the United States. He must have been taken from Espanola sometime between 1900 and 1959 by a scientific expedition,” said Washington Tapia, a tortoise preservation specialist at Galapagos National Park.
Thanks to Diego, the species is no longer facing extinction!