Monday, January 11, 2021 Smile of the Day: Diego the Tortoise

On this Day:

In 2020, Diego the giant 100 year old tortoise, retires to the Galapagos islands after his high libido is credited with saving his species.

Diego is a Hood Island giant tortoise. Thought to have been hatched on Española Island, Galápagos, he was captured as a young adult and shipped to the United States where he was exhibited at zoos. By the late 1940s he was at San Diego Zoo, California, though his species was not known. A captive breeding effort for the critically endangered Hood Island tortoises was set up in 1976, by which time only 15 individuals (2 females and 3 males) were known to survive. Diego was identified as a Hood Island tortoise by DNA testing and was sent to Santa Cruz Island to join the programme. 

The Hood Island giant tortoise (Chelonoidis hoodensis) was threatened by hunting for food and competition from goats and was declared critically endangered in the 1960s.  Only two of the males proved suitable for breeding, so the programme searched for Española tortoises held in captivity. By this point Diego had been at the San Diego zoo for 30 years, but his species was unknown. DNA testing proved that he was a Hood Island tortoise, and he was transferred to Santa Cruz Island, Galápagos to join the programme in 1977.

The three male tortoises were placed into breeding pens with different females and the offspring released onto Española as juveniles, once or twice a year. The survival rate of the offspring on the island was around 50%. During this time Diego fathered around 900 offspring, some 40% of the programme’s output. A second tortoise, known as E5, fathered most of the remaining 60%, with the third male, E3, producing very few offspring.

Despite E5’s being more successful at reproducing, Diego has received the majority of media attention and has been said to have “had so much sex he saved his species”. This is believed to be because E5 had a more reserved character, a less interesting name, and was seldom witnessed in the act of mating. Diego, by comparison, has been described as aggressive, active and vocal in the act of mating, which in turn made him popular with the female tortoises.

Diego remained with the breeding programme until it ended in January 2020. By this time the programme had increased the number of tortoises on Española to 2,000 individuals, considered to be self-sufficient without new influxes of juveniles from the programme. Diego and 14 other tortoises from the programme were released on Española on 15 June 2020. It is thought that he could live to reach 150 years old. At the time of his release he weighed 80 kilograms (180 lb) and measured 90 centimetres (35 in) in length at 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) in height at full stretch (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

What do you get when you breed a tortoise and a porcupine? A Slowpoke

Second, a Song:

Emily Wurramara is an ARIA nominated Indigenous Australian singer and songwriter.

Wurramara is a Warnindhilyagwa woman from Groote Eylandt, 50 kilometres (31 mi) off the Northern Territory of Australia. She grew up in Brisbane.

Wurramara writes and sings in both English and Anindilyakwa.In 2016, she released her debut EP, Black Smoke, which earnt her a Queensland Music Award. She followed it up with an album named Milyakburra in 2018 and toured nationally with Alice Skye. She has been nominated for many other awards as well (per Wikipedia).

Here is Emily Wurramara performing Ementha-Papaguneray (Turtle Song) from her Black Smoke album.  I hope you enjoy this!

Thought for the Day:

“The slow philosophy is not about doing everything in tortoise mode. It’s less about the speed and more about investing the right amount of time and attention in the problem so you solve it.”- Carl Honore


Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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