Living Life Fully in Retirement – An Update on Diego

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Diego at the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center

Diego at the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center on Santa Cruz Island, with Washington Tapia before his release in 2020 © Andrés Cruz / Galápagos Conservancy

Iniciativa Galapagos, a collaboration between the Galapagos Conservancy (a non-profit organization) and the Galapagos National Park is one of the most significant conservation initiatives in Galapagos. Its focus was on rewilding the giant tortoises throughout the archipelago. The restoration of the Espanola Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis Hoodensis) is a notable achievement. The Critically Endangered Espanola Giant Tortoise has gone from 15 animals in 1960 to several thousand today. Diego is the father of many tortoises, and we owe him a special thanks for this incredible comeback.

In late 2020

After more than 80-years away, Diego could finally retire to his native land. It was well-deserved that Diego returned to Espanola, because his contributions in the reproductive department played an important role in the survival of his species. He is father or grandfather of about one third of all the approximately 3,000 Espanola Tortoises in existence today.

What has Diego been up to?

Even though he’s getting older, even as a tortoise he still travels a lot. He has been moving around in his home area of cactus tree for the past few months. A small GPS tracker is attached to his shell. This allows us to follow his five daily movements from afar. Diego will often stop at a single Opuntia tree to wait until a pad of cactus falls from the tree during dry seasons. He can then fetch the pad and have a snack. He ventures outside to look for grass for several weeks when it rains. Then he retreats to the shade under his Opuntia cactus tree for the remainder of the year.

Diego’s limited mobility and active life suggest that he has retired and is content with living out his remaining days on his own small island. Diego’s good health is a great thing and we will always be grateful for what he has done to help the Espanola giant tortoises recover in Galapagos.