Species-Saving Tortoise That Fathered 800 Offspring Returns to Galapagos

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption The tortoise that has saved his species from extinction

Ecuador's Environmental Ministry announced Friday that it made a decision to end the 40-year captive breeding program on Espanola Island, demonstrating the recovery of habitat conditions and of the tortoise population, according to the Galapagos Conservancy.

And so it is for Diego, a Galapagos giant tortoise who is set to return to Espanola, the southern-most island in the Galapagos, where it is believed as much as 40 per cent of the population are his offspring.

Diego began his promiscuous run after he was transported from the San Diego Zoo to Santa Cruz Island, also in the Galapagos, to join a breeding program there about 50 years ago.

"This shows that they are able to grow, they are able to reproduce, they are able to develop", said Carrion.

The program has now finished and Diego will be returned to Espanola in March, the Galapagos National Parks service (PNG) said.

Diego's native archipelago, the Galapagos Islands, is famed for its rich biodiversity which was studied by English scientist Charles Darwin in the 19th century.

A Galapagos tortoise named Diego may have single-handedly saved his species with his fiery libido.

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Now Diego is returning to his original home "almost eight decades after his removal".

The closure of the program means 15 of the breeding adult tortoises - 12 females and 3 males - will be allowed to return to their natural habitat, the first time that's happened since the mid-1960s, the release said.

Diego weighs approximately 80 kilograms, is nearly 90 centimeters long and 150 centimeters tall when he really stretches his legs and neck.

Diego will now be returned from the tortoise center on the nearby Santa Cruz Island to Española, which is now home to the burgeoning turtle population he helped save.

But when the 80kg tortoise returns to his native island - after almost 80 years away - he will join an 1,800-strong population.

The 175 pound Diego is a Chelonoidis hoodensis, a species only found in the wild on the island of Espanola, according to AFP.

Hope for the lone George species, Chelonoidis abingdoni, faded when the venerable turtle died in 2012 at the age of over 100. They could survive inside ships for upto a year, and so a large number were picked up from the islands.Not all were eaten - they would be cast off a ship when it needed to lose ballast.

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