The same man who educated the world on evolution contributed to the near demise of a species. Luckily we have Diego, a male tortoise and proud father of several hundred offspring.
Diego is a Chelonoidis hoodensis and lives at the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galapagos Islands. Back in the 1970s, there were only a dozen or so of his species. Darwin himself wrote about eating tortoise meat in 1839:
“We lived entirely on tortoise meat, the breastplate roasted…with flesh on it, is very good; and the young tortoises make excellent soup.”
That’s right about the time tortoises lost 200,000 of their kind, thanks to hungry people who wished to dine on their meat.
Then along came fertile Diego in 1977. His constant breeding with the female tortoises regenerated the species. He’s the proud father of several hundred offspring and can often be seen mating with one of the females in his pen.
Thanks to his efforts, the tortoise population has climbed up to 1,000. With the majority of those being his offspring, however, concerns have been raised.
Diego lives in a limited habitat, where it’s likely that a brother will mate with a sister. Scientists call that bottlenecking and claim there’s nothing to worry about.
Dr. Linda Cayot of the Galapagos said:
“Every species came from a bottleneck. It’s what happens in the Galapagos.”
It’s the polite and clinical way to discuss inbreeding.
With so few members of their species, bottlenecking was the only option. Just take a look at the Chelonoidis abingdonii species. Lonesome George had the burden of bringing it back to life but couldn’t, all because he couldn’t perform.
In other words, he wasn’t a hit with the ladies.
No need to worry about that happening with Diego, though. He’ll be able to reproduce until the day he dies, and tortoises usually live to be about a hundred or so.
Talk about survival of the fittest.
Watch this video for a closer look at Diego.
Feature Image Source: Screenshot Via Twitter.