When giant tortoises were in extreme danger of going extinct, some were taken from their home at the Galapagos Islands and used as part of the Espanola tortoise program. They have now returned home after 55 years.
The Espanola tortoise program got its start in the mid-1960s. Some people were considering it to be one of the more successful captive breeding programs in existence.
It’s easy to see why it is considered such a success. From those 15 tortoises that were originally part of the program, almost 1900 offspring were produced over five decades. Those offspring have been reintroduced slowly to the island, helping to save the species from extinction.
Many of the 1900 tortoises that were returned to the island have also started breeding. At this time, there are some 2300 children and grandchildren that came from the original 15.
It was 1965 when the breeding program got its start. Efforts were put in place to save the tortoise population from one of the islands in the Galapagos, Pinzón Island. In 1970, the Espanola island tortoises were saved.
Earlier in 2020, Diego the tortoise was retired from the breeding program. He was one of the 15 original tortoises and contributed to almost 40% of the offspring.
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Diego is over a century old and was going to be released in March with the rest of the tortoises. He wasn’t able to be transferred at the time because of the pandemic.
Diego is now with the other giant tortoises on the island. The 2300 other tortoises are now able to reproduce on the island naturally.
Paulo Proaño, Minister of Environment and Water, said:
“This captive breeding program, in addition to the management actions implemented on Española island, give us peace of mind that we managed to save a species that would otherwise have become extinct.
It can only be described as successful and an example of the conservation efforts that we implement as a National Government in synergy with our allies. How we see if she wants some of us will”
Even though they are older, the tortoises are still healthy and are expected to thrive on the island. They may even do better than they did in captivity.
The Espanola captive breeding program has now run its course.
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