San Diego Zoo

Galápagos Tortoise Who Fathered Hundreds of Hatchlings in Breeding Program to Enjoy Retirement in The Wild

Diego, who once resided at the San Diego Zoo, is credited with helping the survival of his species by fathering 40% of the hatchlings in the breeding program

Diego, a tortoise of the endangered Chelonoidis hoodensis subspecies from Española Island, is seen in a breeding centre at the Galapagos National Park on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos archipelago, located some 1,000 km off Ecuador's coast, on September 10, 2016.

Diego, the Galápagos tortoise from the San Diego Zoo who helped save his species from extinction in a conservancy program on the Galápagos Islands, will be released into the wild in Española to enjoy his retirement.

The former San Diegan fathered 800 offspring in the captive breeding program and now that he is retiring following his success, he’ll be free to roam the wild in the Galápagos Island of Española.

Diego, who is now more than a 100-years-old, lived a comfortable life in America’s Finest City after his arrival in the mid-30s. In the 1960s, his species was declared critically endangered with just two males and 12 females left in the wild. After wildlife officials searched for suitable bachelors and bachelorettes to save the Galápagos tortoise, Diego returned to his native land in 1977 and met his match.

The tortoise arrived at the island in 1977 and immediately participated in the Galapagos Conservancy’s captive breeding program. Diego singlehandedly fathered about 40% of the hatchlings in the program and became famous for his success.

Now, Diego and the other 14 tortoises in the original group of reproductive adult tortoises will get to enjoy island life during their retirement.

The Galapagos Conservancy said that “despite their great age, each tortoise remains fit and agile and is expected to do well back on its home island — and perhaps even better than in captivity, given the abundant food and space now on Española Island.”

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