“It takes but one person, one moment, one conviction, to start a ripple of change.” Donna Brazile
Small steps can make big changes, and it turns out, one is enough to make a difference, no matter how hopeless the situation might look at first. A tortoise has won the world’s attention after being instrumental in a decades-long battle to preserve his species.
The depletion of the giant tortoises from the island of Santa Cruz was caused by sailors, pirates, whalers, and the introduction of goats. As a vital part of a breeding program at the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center on the island, the giant tortoise Diego became a real attraction!
The world was thrilled to learn about the tortoise Casanova, who fathered 800 babies and thus made a dramatic contribution to saving his species, Chelonoidis Hoodenis, from extinction.
In the 1970s, there were only 12 females and 2 males on the island of Espanola in the Galapagos. In 1976, a third male was brought, Diego, who had lived at the San Diego Zoo in the United States for 30 years.
After over four decades, the project was completed successfully, with the birth of over 2000 giant tortoises.
The US environmentalist James P. Gibbs, a professor of environmental and forest biology at the State University of New York in Syracuse, who has played a leading role in the conservation of giant tortoises in the Galápagos Islands, described Diego as having “a big personality and is quite aggressive, active and vocal in his mating habits”.
Diego has become a symbol of the conservation scheme.
The director of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative, Washington Tapia, confirmed that there are now “sufficient conditions” for the species to go back to normal.
“We developed mathematical models with different possible scenarios for the next hundred years and in all the conclusion was that the island has sufficient conditions to keep the turtle population that will continue to grow normally, even without any new repatriation of juveniles.”
Moreover, he added:
“In addition to the recovery of the giant turtle population, which went from 15 to 2000 thanks to this program, the management actions implemented for the ecological restoration of the island, such as the eradication of introduced species and the regeneration of cacti through Galápagos Verde 2050 project, have helped to ensure that the island’s ecosystems currently have adequate conditions to support the growing population of turtles.”
It is reported that Diego is related to over 40 percent of the tortoises on the island.
According to the San Diego Zoo, Diego was brought to the U.S. between 1928 and 1933, and decades later, he was returned to participate in the breeding program, as his species was declared critically endangered in the 1960s.
Genetic testing of the young tortoises, which has been done regularly since the 1990s, showed that even 40% of the tortoises on the island are related to Diego.
“Another more reserved, less charismatic male — ‘E5’ — has generated about 60 percent. The third male — ‘E3’ — virtually none. So Diego has been critical.”
Since Diego is more than 100 years old, it is time for him to retire. Along with the 14 other breeders who took part in the program, he will now be returned to his island of origin, Española Island, after 80 years. The release into the wilderness is scheduled for March 2020.
So let’s use the time left to thank the legend! The entire world owes you, lovemaker!