Diego the tortoise , saviour of his species, will soon return to his home in the Galapagos islands nearly 80 years after being taken from it. As part of a conservation program, he has sired hundreds of teeny tortoises, helping to bring the population up from a mere handful of reptiles to around 2,000 over the past few decades. Diego is a native of Española Island and is known as an Española giant tortoise ( Chelonoidis hoodensis ). Almost eight decades ago, he was plucked from the island by a scientific expedition and taken to San Diego Zoo in California. But in the 1960s, a breeding program was set up to try to save his dwindling species – there were just 12 females and two males alive on Española in 1970, and they were too spread out across the island to breed with each other. Diego was brought to Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos to join the program, along with 14 fellow Española tortoises. Together, they produced hundreds of baby tortoises that were released back onto their native island. Now, Española’s population stands at about 2,000 giant tortoises, and Diego played a big role in that repopulation. It […]

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