Go Diego, Go!

January 22, 2020

The folks at the Galapagos National Park didn’t know they had an overachiever on their hands when they asked to borrow a tortoise named Diego from the San Diego Zoo to help with their giant Española tortoise breeding program. When Diego arrived at the national park, there were only fifteen giant Española tortoises remaining in the wild: twelve females and three males. Scientists were sure that the giant Española tortoise would soon become extinct. Well, Diego wasn’t going to let that happen!

Juvenile Española Tortoises Released on Santa Fe Island
Image credit: © Maud Quinzin / Galapagos Conservancy

Since Diego’s arrival at the park, he has produced more than 800 offspring—that’s a lot of baby tortoises! Diego, along with other conservation efforts such as planting more cactus (the plant of choice for these tortoises!), helped save the giant Española tortoise species. Think we’re kidding? Well, we’re not! Scientists have created mathematical models and calculated various scenarios to predict whether or not this tortoise species would thrive given the number of tortoises that now exist. The answer? Yes, it will. So, thanks to Diego the tortoise, a whole species of tortoises is once again thriving.

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