Extinct tortoise booms back to life as species breeds to thrive again

There were just 15 Española tortoises left in the world, now there are more than 2,000.

A tortoise that faced being wiped off the planet has found a new lease of life.

The species is now thriving again thanks to the mind-boggling success of a breeding programme on the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

There were just 15 Española tortoises left in the world, yet now that figure has boomed after they mated to produce a whopping 1,900 offspring.

[Credit: Galapagos Conservancy]

Their little community continues to grow, with many of those offspring surviving to adulthood themselves and also breeding – going on to create a population of 2,300.

Speaking about the initiative’s success, Ecuador’s Minister of Environment and Water, Paulo Proaño, said: “This captive breeding programme, 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.”

[Credit: Galapagos Conservancy]

The programme kickstarted back in the 1960s, with the remaining 14 tortoises on Española island and one from San Diego zoo taking 55 years to restore the species.

Due to its immense success, the tortoises are now being released back into their natural habitats away from the confines of the breeding programme.

Director of the Galapagos National Park, Danny Rueda, explained that releasing the animals back into the wild required a lot of man power though.

He said: “For the three males whose weight exceeded 120lbs, two people were needed in relay teams.

“After the release, the staff remained for approximately four more hours, making observations of the behaviour of the tortoises as they settled back into their home.”

It is believed the tortoise population faced extinction primarily because of whalers and pirates in the 1800s who used them as food on their long voyages.

[Credit: Galapagos Conservancy]

One giant tortoise, named Diego, proved to be the master of breeding after he managed to contribute to approximately 40% of the island’s new generation.

Diego has just celebrated his 100th birthday, and while he may not qualify for a telegram from the Queen, with a tortoise lifespan reaching up to 150 years, he may just enjoy his retirement watching his great, great, great grandkids grow up.

For more adorable animal updates, visit Galapagos Conservancy.


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