A species of tortoise has been saved from the brink of extinction, all thanks to one male’s successful fathering of 800 babies.

Giant tortoises are the largest living tortoises in the world – they really are genuinely huge. There are several different species, and they’re all extremely rare. They exist only on the Galápagos islands in Ecuador and the islands of Aldabra in Tanzania.

Thanks to human activities, giant tortoises have been drastically decreased in number over the past few centuries. By the 1960s, only a few thousand were left.

At it’s low, one species, Chelonoidis hoodensis, consisted only of two males and 12 females on the island of Española in the Galápagos.

Luckily, they were found, and a group of these tortoises entered into a breeding program off the coast of California in the ’60s. One of those turtles was Diego, who is now a hero.

Posted by Parque Nacional Galápagos on Friday, January 10, 2020

Fifty years after the program began, Chelonoidis hoodenis is officially safe from extinction with the birth of over 2000 baby giant tortoises. Diego alone is responsible for 800 of those babies.

Washington Tapia, director of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative, announced there are now “sufficient conditions” for the tortoise population to bounce back.

Posted by Parque Nacional Galápagos on Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Jorge Carrión, the director of the Galápagos National Park, added, “In addition to the recovery of the giant turtle population, which went from 15 to 2000 thanks to this program, the management actions implemented for the ecological restoration of the island, such as the eradication of introduced species and the regeneration of cacti through Galápagos Verde 2050 project, have helped to ensure that the island’s ecosystems currently have adequate conditions to support the growing population of turtles.”

Posted by Parque Nacional Galápagos on Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Diego is now over 100 years old, and he finally got to return to his homeland at the start of the new year.