The Galapagos tortoise is one of the most famous animals on the island. In fact, the island's name 'Galapagos' is derived from the old Spanish word tortoises.
They are massive animals, but their shells are not solid because it is made up of honeycomb structures that enclose small air chambers, making it possible for the tortoise to carry the weight of its shell without much difficulty.
The tortoise cannot "walk out" of its shell-like the way people see in cartoons because their shell encompasses their ribs, and its lungs are located on top of its body, just underneath the top dome of the shell.
One of the most notable tortoises from the island is Diego, who is credited for saving his species, which was once considered endangered.
This is Diego the giant tortoise. He's 100 years old and has fathered an estimated 800 offspring, helping rebuild the species' population on Santa Cruz in the Galapagos Islands. He's now been "retired" and moved to the uninhabited island of Espanola with 24 others. (: Getty) pic.twitter.com/8k1rZFVbbn — BBC Newsbeat (@BBCNewsbeat) June 16, 2020
On Monday, he was put out to pasture on his native island after many years of breeding in captivity, said Ecuador's environment minister. Diego was taken from the Galapagos National Park's breeding program on Santa Cruz to Espanola, a city in New Mexico.
The minister, Paulo Proano, posted on his Twitter, "We are closing an important chapter in the management of the park." Diego, together with 25 tortoises, are going back home after decades of reproducing in captivity to save their species from being extinct.
But the tortoises and 100-year-old Diego have to undergo a quarantine period before they are taken back by boat to Espanola. Its purpose is to avoid them from carrying seeds from plants that are not native to the island.
Diego's current weight is around 80 kilograms or 175 pounds, is nearly 90 centimeters or 35 inches long and 1.5 meters or five feet tall if he stretches his legs and neck.
Finally, the Galápagos National Park announced that the future of his species is already secured; thus the breeding program also ends. An evaluation has shown that it had met its conservation goals already, so Diego now gets to retire.
Diego's Contribution to His Species
Science Alert reported that Diego is believed to be the patriarch of at least 40% of the 2,000 tortoise population. His contribution to the program on Santa Cruz Island was indeed a noteworthy one.
Charles Darwin Research Station founded the tortoise center on Santa Cruz in 1965. They are currently taking care of three new tortoise centers, which are all managed by the Park Directorate.
Five decades ago, only two males and 12 females of his species were alive on Espanola, and unfortunately, they were too spread out to reproduce.
From California's San Diego Zoo, he was brought to join the breeding program, set up in the mid-1960s to save his species known as Chelonoidis hoodensis.
The National Park authorities believe that Diego was taken from the Galapagos Islands in the first half of the 20th century by a scientific expedition.
The Galapagos Islands, which is located in Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean were became known by the 19th Century English naturalist Charles Darwin's research on the island's breathtaking biodiversity.