Diego the giant Galapagos tortoise credited for saving his once-endangered species single-handedly, returned to wildlife on June 16, following decades of breeding in captivity, Ecuador's environment minister informed.
According to an NDTV report, from the Galapagos National Park's breeding program in Santa Cruz, Diego was shipped to his native land in the remote and uninhabited Espanola.
"We close an important chapter in the management of @parquegalapagos, 15 turtles of #Española, including #Diego They return home after decades of breeding in captivity and save their species from extinction. Your island welcomes you with open arms" wrote the minister Paulo Proano on Twitter.
He added that Espanola welcomed them "with open arms".
The 100-year-old Diego and the other tortoises had to undergo a quarantine period to avoid them carrying seeds from plants that are not native to the island, before returning home.
Diego who weighs about 80 kilograms (175 pounds), is nearly 90 centimetres (35 inches) long and 1.5 meters (five feet) tall. Park rangers believe Diego alone is responsible for being the patriarch of at least 40 per cent of the 2,000 giant tortoise population.
There were only two males and 12 females of Diego's species alive on Espanola around 50 years ago. To save the species, Chelonoidis hoodensis, Diego was brought in from California's San Diego Zoo, as a part of the breeding program which was set up in the mid-1960s.
According to the National Park, he was taken from the Galapagos in the first half of the 20th century by a scientific expedition.Also Read: Researchers Capture World's Largest Gathering Of Endangered Green Turtles