After saving his species from extinction, Diego, a giant Galapagos tortoise, will be released on his native island next March.
About 50 years ago, only two males and 12 female giant tortoises (Chelonoidis hoodensi) were found on the island of Española, in the Galapagos. These reptiles were too few and too dispersed to ensure the survival of the species. In an attempt to redress the situation, several specimens scattered around the world joined a breeding program on the island of Santa Cruz in 1976. Among the 14 males selected was Diego, who was barely out of adolescence.
A big sexual appetite!
And the young male was particularly dashing. In fact, since the introduction of this program, it is estimated that more than 2,000 giant tortoises have emerged. And Diego’s libido has something to do with it because the turtle alone would have produced nearly 800 descendants in almost 50 years!
Almost all of these turtles have since been reintroduced to the Galapagos Archipelago. And Diego will soon join them for a well-deserved retirement. The male, now over 100 years old, should be able to be released next March on his native island accompanied by 14 other breeding adults (12 females and two males).
“There is a real feeling of happiness in having the opportunity to bring this turtle home,” said Jorge Carrion, director of the Galapagos National Park Service, enthusiastically.
Before returning to his island, Diego and his companions will however have to be quarantined to eliminate the risk of dispersing seeds of exogenous plants.
It is recalled that these are the islands which, in 1835, inspired Charles Darwin for his theory of evolution through natural selection.
Giant turtles have a very good memory!
It remains to be seen if Diego will remember his land. However, a recent study found that giant tortoises have excellent memories.
For this work, researchers had conducted small experiments with giant tortoises from the Galapagos and Aldabra islands living at the zoo in Vienna, Austria.
These training sessions consisted in offering turtles colored balls fixed to the end of sticks. When they bit into a particular bullet, they got a reward, and when they bit into another, they got no reward.
During the first experiment, all the turtles seemed to have understood the principle. The researchers then returned 95 days later to conduct the same experiment. It turned out that all the turtles remembered their first training and chose the right balls. But the most impressive thing is that nine years later, the same reptiles passed the test again!