A hero tortoise has saved his entire species – with the power of sex.
Randy reptile Diego was one of several Galápagos giant tortoises selected to be part of a breeding programme on Santa Cruz Island, off the southwestern coast of California.
At the time, the Galápagos giant tortoise was in danger of extinction.
There were around a quarter of a million tortoises on the islands when they were discovered in the 16th century. The islands’ name, Galápagos, is Spanish for tortoise.
By the time the breeding program was instigated, around 50 years ago, there were only two males and 12 females of Diego’s species alive on Espanola, and they were so widely separated it was unlikely that they would meet and mate.
But the Santa Cruz Island program initiative was a success.
Jorge Carrion, director of Galápagos National Parks service, said: “About 1,800 tortoises have been returned to Espanola and now with natural reproduction we have approximately 2,000 tortoises.”
“This shows that they are able to grow, they are able to reproduce, they are able to develop,” he added to AFP.
Diego is credited with having fathered at least 40% of the 2,000-strong tortoise population returning to Espanola.
“He’s contributed a large percentage to the lineage that we are returning to Espanola,” said Carrion.
“There’s a feeling of happiness to have the possibility of returning that tortoise to his natural state.”
Diego as about 100 years old.
He weighs about 13 stone, he’s about 3ft long and at full stretch around 5ft tall.
There are several other species of tortoise native to the Galápagos, and many of them are still doomed to extinction, but thanks to Diego his species – Chelonoidis hoodensis – has a long and promising future.