Why This Giant Tortoise is Finally Retiring From Mating
Sun, April 18, 2021

Why This Giant Tortoise is Finally Retiring From Mating


The number of giant Galápagos tortoises (Chelonoidis hoodensis) severely declined back in the 1970s. They were almost on the brink of extinction mainly due to easy access to the island by pirates and fishermen who hunted them for food. Charles Darwin was one of them, and he used the species to develop the theory of natural selection. In his journal in 1839, Darwin said, “We lived entirely on tortoise meat, the breastplate roasted… with flesh on it, is very good; and the young tortoises make excellent soup.”


Photo Credits: All That's Interesting


Aside from that, the tortoises had to compete with feral goats which overpopulated on the Galápagos Islands. To solve the problem, authorities started a breeding program at the Galápagos National Park in 1965. During that time, there were only 14 giant tortoises left to breed, comprised of only 12 females and two males. The initial goal was to increase the population of the giant tortoises on Pinzon Island. 


Photo Credits: All That's Interesting


In 1976, a third male tortoise named Diego was added to the sanctuary. He returned from his captive habitat at the San Diego Zoo to take part in the breeding program. But Diego is particularly special because of his “exceptionally high sex drive.” According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they see on the news or read in history books, the Galápagos National Park Director Jorge Carrión reported that the species’ population has increased to 2,000 since then. 


Photo Credits: All That's Interesting


The national park has credited Diego as the key to his species’ recovery from near extinction, proving his crucial role to the breeding program’s success. The researchers discovered that roughly 40% of the offspring produced through the breeding program in the last 30 years were fathered by Diego. Recently, the national park announced that Diego will now be retiring as the breeding program would soon be disbanded since its conservation goal was met. The giant tortoise would now be returning to his natural habitat on Española Island in March.




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