QUITO, Ecuador — Lonesome George’s inability to reproduce made him a global symbol of efforts to halt the disappearance of species. And while his kind died with him, that doesn’t mean the famed giant tortoise leaves no heir apparent.
The Galapagos Islands have another centenarian who fills a shell pretty well. He’s Diego, a prolific, bossy, macho reptile.
Unlike Lonesome George, who died June 24, Diego symbolizes not a dying breed but one resurrected.
Having sired hundreds of offspring, Diego has been central to bringing the Espanola Island type of tortoise back from near-extinction, rangers at Galapagos National Park say.
Diego was plucked from Espanola by expeditioners sometime between 1900 and 1930 and wound up in the San Diego Zoo in California, said the head of the park’s conservation program, Washington Tapia.
When the U.S. zoo returned him to the Galapagos in 1975, the only other known living members of his species were two males and 12 females.