Giant Tortoises That Saved Their Species From Extinction Return Home After 55 Years

by : Lucy Connolly on : 06 Jul 2020 17:41
Giant Tortoises That Saved Their Species From Extinction Return Home After 55 YearsGalapagos Conservancy/Facebook

The 15 giant tortoises that helped saved their species from extinction have finally returned to their home on the Galapagos Islands after 55 years.

The tortoises were all part of the Española tortoise program, which was launched in the mid-1960s and has been dubbed one of the most successful captive breeding programs in the world.


Through this breeding program, the 15 tortoises produced nearly 1,900 offspring over the past five decades. These offspring have been slowly reintroduced on the island, effectively saving the entire species.

diego the tortoiseGalapagos National Park/Facebook

In fact, many of those 1,900 tortoises have now started breeding, creating a population of approximately 2,300 children and grandchildren of the original 15.

The breeding program began in 1965, with efforts first dedicated to saving the tortoise population on Pinzón Island, another island in the Galápagos. In 1970, researchers began saving the Española Island tortoises.


Earlier this year it was announced that Diego the tortoise, one of the original 15 tortoises whose sex drive was so exceptional he was able to contribute to approximately 40% of the offspring, was able to retire from the breeding program.

Diego, who is more than 100 years old, was supposed to be released back in March with the rest of the tortoises. However, the ongoing health crisis prevented their transfer at that time.

Escaping Extinction: The Long Road Home for the Española Tortoise Species

Check out our new video, "Escaping Extinction: The Long Road Home for the Española Tortoise Species," featuring footage from the historic release of 15 tortoises from a 55-year breeding program back to their home island after saving their species from extinction. 🐢

Posted by Galapagos Conservancy on Monday, June 29, 2020

Now, he’s finally been able to return home along with his other mates, joining the 2,300 other tortoises that are now able to reproduce naturally on the island.


Paulo Proaño, Minister of Environment and Water, said:

This captive breeding program, 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.

diego the tortoiseGalapagos National Park/Facebook

Despite their old age, the tortoises remains fit and healthy and are expected to do well back on their home island — perhaps even better than in captivity.


The Española captive breeding program is now officially closed, just going to show that slow and steady really does win the race.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

Most Read StoriesMost Read


Billie Eilish’s Fans Accuse Ex-Boyfriend Of ‘Grooming’ Her After Documentary

Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Animals, Extinction, Now


Galapagos Conservancy/Facebook and 1 other
  1. Galapagos Conservancy/Facebook

    Galapagos Conservancy

  2. Galapagos Conservancy

    Española Tortoises Return Home Following Closure of Successful Breeding Program