Love moves the world, it’s a realm for our lives. In Ecuador we are proud of the biodiversity of our «Four Worlds.» This is a land where people love life, where extraordinary humans and wildlife have thrived. To celebrate Father’s Day, we’d like to give some recognition to The best dad in the whole world. We’re talking about Diego, the giant turtle who saved an entire species (Chelonidis hoodensis) from extinction.
Who is Diego?
Diego a.k.a. «papurris» (that means «daddy»-ish in spanish) is a turtle more than 100 years old with a saddle shell. The handsome and lustful 5 feet height and more than 50 kg tortoise is now the proud father of at least 40% of the baby turtles that grow comfortably on the Española island in the Galápagos archipelago.
Back in the 1960s, Ecuador was searching for a male individual to save the species and so Diego was found in the United States at a zoo in San Diego, California. Its transfer and repatriation to the archipelago as part of a Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative (GTRI) started in 1976 and from that moment it became a symbol of procreation.
At that time there were only two male individuals and twelve females of the species. Thanks to the initiative there are about 2,300 turtles now. The successful program is an example for conservation and was led by the Galápagos National Park and its strategic ally the Galapagos Conservancy Found.
This lone male turtle spent 87 years on captivity, but we’re sure he enjoyed the stay with the companion of the many female turtles that helped breeding new chelonians.
A long-term task committed to the preservation of an emblematic species has finally accomplished its goals the past June 15, the day Diego finally experienced freedom along other 14 turtles. They all were the core of all efforts for the conservation of this magnificent Galápagos tortoise species.
For now, the breeding program of the Chelonidis hoodensis species has successfully concluded. Diego, the best father in Ecuador, returns to his long missed Española Island to slowly roam these volcanic lands, chew some longed-for greens and enjoy mature life with his offspring around. A veteran on the fight against extinction coming back home to remind us that we can still protect our Natural Heritages.
Diego is an example of a fortunate reproduction for the conservation of species and what can be achieved; however, let’s’ take some some time to remember the Lonesome George of the Chelonoidis abingdonii species, a giant tortoise family that couldn’t met the same fate. His species was long ago hunted for meat and he was the only survivor found after thought long extinct. He lived in Pinta Island and it died of a stroke.
Explore some details of this marvelous animals.
George departed in 2012 after several trials without successfully procreating any offspring. His body was embalmed and is exhibited on Santa Cruz Island as a reminder that some times, no matter the effort, the damage would be unrepairable.
George reached 4,27 feet height and weighed 88 kilograms. Scientists have estimated he was born between 1903 and 1919. Despite not leaving any heir behind he is indeed emblematic to Ecuador and the scientific community and has left a legacy of consciousness.
Turtles, the oldest inhabitants of the archipelago
Here are some insight to these animals:
- Their arrival dates back around 2.4 and 4 million years ago. They are the oldest islanders and it is believed that they came over logs or vegetation remains dragged by the marine currents from the continent. They have a wide capacity to withstand long periods os starvation without any food or water. This fantastic features was in fact its doom back in the times of the conquerors and buccaneers.
- They are large. Their shells can measure more than 59 inches and certain turtles can exceed 400 kg. They do not have teeth, but they do have a powerful very sharp bony beak to take a good bite and feed on. Turtles with a dome shaped shell and short necks have been spotted, they find food at ground level. And others with saddle-shaped shells and long necks, which live on islands with presence of dry-weather bushes to feed on their fruits and leaves.
- Turtles are herbivores. According to their environment where they live, they can feed on flowers, fruits, cacti, grass or herbs. They prefer juicy plants that can provide liquids and hydration such as opuntias and cacti.
Galapagos, the jewel of “The Country of the Four Worlds"
The Galapagos archipelago is an islands paradise and one of the main destinations to observe wildlife on its natural habitat and witness evolution. It is located 851 miles from continental Ecuador and its is a land of great importance for the preservation of wildlife. In September 8, 1978 it was declared World Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The Galápagos Islands emerged on a «hot spot» of the planet and were formed through dynamic geological processes, due to the eruption of magma (molten rock) generated at the bottom of the sea. The archipelago is made up of 7 major islands, 14 minor islands, 64 islets and 136 rocks over the Nazca plate, which each year moves about 37 mm to the east.
Española Island is located at the extreme south-east of the Galapagos archipelago. Here you can connect with the life of one of the most important protected areas in Ecuador with various activities, including: swimming in the crystal clear waters of ‘Gardner Bay’, where you will observe a colony of sea lions and intrepid sea turtles; walk through ‘Punta Suárez’ and see the ‘Soplador’ rock formation, albatrosses, blue-footed boobies and more; Snorkel, panga ride, kayak and immerse yourself in the marine world, watch stingrays, goldfish and sea turtles.
The island can be reached by navigable cruises and by daily diving tour boats, which are authorized to visit the site.
Follow this link for more travel advice to the Galápagos Islands