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Galapagos’ new star tortoise a prolific dad
Diego is nearly 3 feet (90 centimeters) long, weighs 176 pounds (80 kilograms), and has a black saddleback shell.
Llerena says tourists take to him automatically, if from a safe distance.
“I think he’s going to be the successor to Lonesome George, the new favorite.”
A visit to Lonesome George became de rigueur for celebrities and common folk alike among the 180,000 people who annually visit the Galapagos. Among his last visitors were Richard Gere, Prince Charles of England and Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and family.
Before humans arrived in the Galapagos, the six islands were home to tens of thousands of giant tortoises. Numbers were down to about 3,000 in 1974, but the recovery program run by the national park and the Charles Darwin Foundation has succeeded in increasing the overall population to 20,000.
The offspring of Diego and his male rivals in the corrals of Santa Cruz have themselves been reproducing in the wild on Espanola island since 1990.
“We can now say that the reproduction of this species is guaranteed,” said Tapia.
Cayot was asked whether having so many children of the same few parents interbreeding on Espanola could hurt the breed’s long-term prospects.
“It could be a problem,” she said. “But it is more important to save the species.”
Associated Press Writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report from Bogota, Colombia.
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