How a Galápagos tortoise from the San Diego Zoo saved his sub-species from the brink of extinction.
Super Diego, 91 years old, has been a resident at the Charles Darwin Research Station since 1977. He was taken from his homeland on Española Island during the scientific voyage of Allan Hancock aboard his yacht Velero III in 1933. Brought to the San Diego Zoo (hence his name), he became #21 in their collection of 100 Galápagos tortoises.
In the 1960's the director of the nascent Charles Darwin Research Station found that the Española tortoises, slaughtered by the thousands by 18th-century whalers, were on the verge of extinction. To save this unique species two males and 12 females, the total number found, were brought to Research Station as a hopeful breeding colony, and a search for extant members of the species was launched.
The one male left of the tortoises from the Velero III expedition was identified as the only remaining source of fresh genes, and was sent to the Darwin Station by the Zoo. He arrived in Galápagos on August 8, 1977, 43 years after he was taken, and has proved to be a potent contributor to the successful breeding program returning his subspecies from the brink of extinction. It is estimated he has sired about 1,700 Española tortoises.
Super Diego remains active and healthy. And guests on every Lindblad-National Geographic Galápagos expedition will get to see him at the Charles Darwin Research Center.