Galápagos Tortoise Diego retires after saving species with 800 hatchlings

A 100-year-old tortoise stud who fathered more than 800 giant tortoises during his career has retired after being credited with saving his species.

Diego the Galápagos Tortoise (scientific name Chelonoidis hoodensis)has been breeding in captivity for decades as part of a program aiming to revive tortoise numbers on Isla Santa Cruz in the Galápagos Islands.

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Park rangers estimate the 80kg tortoise fathered at least 40 per cent of the 2000 tortoises bred in the program.

Half a century ago there were only two males left on his native island, and they only had 12 female tortoises to mate with in order to save their species.

The tortoises were reportedly too spread out to find each other and reproduce.

Diego was brought in from California’s San Diego Zoo in a bid to save the species after he was reportedly removed from his native Isla Española some time in the first half of the 20th century.

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He will spend the rest of his days on that island after his contribution to saving the species.

The islands are technically part of Ecuador on the west coast of South America.

Ecuador environment minister Paulo Proaño Andrade announced Diego and 15 other tortoises will be retired to live out their days after their work in the program.

“We close an important chapter in the management of the Galápagos National Park,” he said in a translated tweet announcing the return of the tortoises.

“They return home after decades of breeding in captivity and saving their species from extinction. Your island welcomes you with open arms,” he added.

The tortoises were repatriated to their home islands after undergoing quarantine to avoid carrying back seeds or plants that aren’t native to the island.

The Galápagos Island archipelago is about 1000km off the coast of Ecuador in South America and were a major contributor to Charles Darwin’s work on his theory of evolution after he observed differences in tortoises that suggested they had adapted to their environments over time.

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