Diego, a giant tortoise, galapagos ecuador
In this file photo taken on February 27, 2019 Diego, a tortoise of the endangered Chelonoidis hoodensis subspecies from Espanola Island, is seen in a breeding centre at the Galapagos National Park on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos archipelago, located some 1,000 km off Ecuador's coast. Image Credit: AFP

pc小群正规群Quito: Diego the giant Galapagos tortoise whose tireless efforts are credited with almost single-handedly saving his once-threatened species, was put out to pasture Monday on his native island after decades of breeding in captivity, Ecuador's environment minister said.

pc小群正规群Diego was shipped out from the Galapagos National Park's breeding programme on Santa Cruz to remote and unhabited Espanola in recent years, said the minister Paulo Proano.

pc小群正规群"We are closing an important chapter" in the management of the park, Proano said on Twitter, adding that 25 tortoises including the prolific Diego, "are going back home after decades of reproducing in captivity and saving their species from extinction."

Espanola welcomed them "with open arms," he said.

Before being taken back by boat to Espanola, the 100-year-old Diego and the other tortoises had to undergo a quarantine period to avoid them carrying seeds from plants that are not native to the island.

pc小群正规群Diego weighs about 80kg, is nearly 90 centimeters long and 1.5 meters (five feet) tall, if he really stretches his legs and neck.

pc小群正规群Diego's contribution to the programme on Santa Cruz Island was particularly noteworthy, with park rangers believing him responsible for being the patriarch of at least 40 per cent of the 2,000-tortoise population.

pc小群正规群Around 50 years ago, there were only two males and 12 females of Diego's species alive on Espanola, and they were too spread out to reproduce.

Diego was brought in from California's San Diego Zoo to join the breeding programme which was set up in the mid-1960s to save his species, Chelonoidis hoodensis.

pc小群正规群The National Park believes he was taken from the Galapagos in the first half of the 20th century by a scientific expedition.

Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean, were made famous by 19th Century English naturalist Charles Darwin's studies of their breathtaking biodiversity.