Things That Matter

Diego, The 100-Year-Old Giant Tortoise Who Fathered Nearly 1,000 Offspring Is Going Into Retirement

After 40 years of giving his all for a good cause, Diego the tortoise is getting to do what so many of us dream of – he’s heading into retirement. Diego, noted for his next level sex drive, is credited with fathering enough baby tortoises to bring his species back from the brink of extinction. 

Diego, who is more than 100 years old, boosted his species’ population from just 15 to well over 2,000 on the island of Española, a part of the world-famous Galápagos Islands. He had been shipped over from the San Diego Zoo as part of a breeding program, and was one of 15 tortoises to take part in the program at the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center on the island of Santa Cruz. Now he’ll finally be returning to his island of origin. Mission accomplished.

The Galápagos National Park has announced it is ending a captive breeding program for giant Española tortoises, after one tortoise produced more than 800 offspring, helping save the species.

Credit: Rodrigo Buendía / Getty

A giant tortoise whose rampant sex life may have single-handedly saved his entire species from extinction has retired from his playboy lifestyle, returning to the wild with his mission accomplished.

Diego’s unmatched libido was credited as a major reason for the survival of his fellow giant tortoises on Española Island, part of the Galapagos Islands, after being shipped over from the San Diego Zoo as part of a breeding program.

It’s been nearly eight decades since Diego was extracted from his natural habitat. With his mission accomplished, he will now be released into the wilderness on the island where he was born.

When he started his campaign of promiscuity, there were just two males and 12 females of his species alive on the island.

Credit: Rodrigo Buendía / Getty

But the desirable shell-dweller had so much sex he helped boost the population to over 2,000. The Galapagos National Parks service believe the 100-year-old tortoise is the patriarch of around 40% of that population

The program started with only two male tortoises until a third, named Diego, was found in the San Diego Zoo. He had lived in the zoo for about 30 years before joining the breeding program on the Galápagos’ Santa Cruz island. Diego, now over 100 years old, had a big impact on the program; he has a strong personality and isn’t shy about sex, which earned him a reputation online. Now, he and the 14 other tortoises in the breeding program are preparing to return home.

“He’s contributed a large percentage to the lineage that we are returning to Espanola,” Jorge Carrion, the park’s director, told AFP. “There’s a feeling of happiness to have the possibility of returning that tortoise to his natural state.”

The recovery of the Española tortoises has been a decades-long battle.

Credit: Galapagos National Park

The giant tortoises were depleted from the island, hunted by sailors, whalers, and pirates for food, and goats were introduced. So before young tortoises could be restored on the island, conservationists had to contend with goats between the 1970’s and 1990’s. But cohorts of young turtles were released once or twice each year, with a survival rate of over 50 percent. By 2010, tortoises were once again a common sight on the island, Rory Carroll reported at the time for the Guardian

“During the expedition we found nests, recently hatched tortoises, and adults born on Española, which indicates that the tortoise population is doing well,” Washington Tapia, director of the Galápagos Tortoise Restoration Initiative, told Carroll in 2010.

The decision to end the breeding program comes after the 2019 census of Española island. The census and models of the next 100 years of tortoise population on the island found that “the island has sufficient conditions to maintain the tortoise population, which will continue to grow normally — even without any new repatriation of juveniles,” Tapia, said per a translation of the original statement.

It Could Be Time To Say Goodbye To Your Salsa Forever As Tomatoes And Chilies Are In Danger Of Going Extinct

Culture

It Could Be Time To Say Goodbye To Your Salsa Forever As Tomatoes And Chilies Are In Danger Of Going Extinct

Pixabay

Two of Latin America’s most important ingredients – staples of cuisines across the region – are in danger of possible extinction thanks to climate change. Tomatoes and chilies both make up a huge part of traditional recipes from Mexico to Brazil and Argentina to Cuba – and they’re close to disappearing from grocery stores everywhere.

We know that tomato and chili are two fundamental ingredients in Mexican cuisine. Due to the threats suffered by its main pollinator, the bumblebee, these basic ingredients could disappear forever.

Climate change is wreaking havoc on the planet. But one of the most at-risk species is the humble bumble bee. These often feared insects are a vital source of pollination for thousands of plant and flower species around the world – if they disappear so too do the species of plants that depend on them.

Pollinators are species of great importance for a healthy environment. They are responsible for the the diversity and health of various biomes. Across Latin America, the bumble bee is largely responsible for the pollination of modern agriculture and this could have a major impact on the production of tomatoes and chilis.

Unfortunately, bumblebees are currently threatened, resulting in the possible extinction of different vegetables, including tomatoes and chili.

But why does the tiny bumble bee matter at all?

The bumble bee belongs to the insect family Apidae, which includes hundeds of different species of bumblebees. In fact, the bumble bee can be found on every continent except Antarctica and plays an outsized role in agriculture. The insects are often larger than honey bees, come in black and white varieties and often feature white, yellow, or orange stripes. This genus belongs to the Apidae family that includes different species commonly known as bumblebees. They’re almost entirely covered by very silky hairs. An adult bumblebee reaches 20 millimeters or more and feeds primarily on nectar from flowering plants. A curious fact is that females have the ability to sting, while males do not.

Bumblebees are epic pollinators of the tomato and chili plantS. Together with different species, the bumblebee helps produce many staple foods that are part of healthy diets around the world. If these become extinct the eating habits of all Latinos would suffer drastic changes as several vegetables would disappear.

So why are bumblebees in danger?

The main threat of these insects is the pesticides used in modern agriculture. That is why it is necessary to avoid consuming food produced in this way. We can all help the bumblebee planting plants, protecting native species and especially not damaging their natural environment.

But climate change is also wreaking havoc on the breeding patters of bumblebees – leading to colony collapse. With fewer colonies there is less breeding and therefore fewer bees around the world to pollinate our global crops.

Can you imagine a world without tomatoes or chilies?

Salsa. Moles. Pico de gallo. Ketchup. Chiles rellenos. Picadillo. All of these iconic Latin American dishes would be in danger of going extinct along with the bumblebee – because what’s a mole without the rich, complex flavors of dried chilies?

Several groups are already working hard to help fund programs that would work to conserve the dwindling bumblebee populations. While others are working out solutions that could perhaps allow tomatoes and chilies to self-pollinate – much as other plants already do.

Pablo Escobar Once Had Four Pet Hippos, Now There’s More Than 80 And They’re Destroying Colombia’s Ecosystem

Things That Matter

Pablo Escobar Once Had Four Pet Hippos, Now There’s More Than 80 And They’re Destroying Colombia’s Ecosystem

James Breeden / TripAdvisor

Pablo Escobar is known for many things, among them being one of the world’s most prolific drug lords. His Medellín cartel basically invented the modern-day drug business model – which continues to plague communities around the world.

However, there’s one part of Escobar’s life that few know about – the drug kingpin also had a menagerie of exotic animals that he kept as pets, including four giant African hippos.

The former drug lord‘s pet hippos have exploded in population and are wreaking havoc on the environment.

Escobar kept a large number of exotic animals – including lions, rare birds, giraffes, and hippos – as pets at his Medellin compound. When he was killed in 1993, most of the animals were moved to zoos, however, the hippos were left to fend for themselves. And apparently they’ve thrived on their own.

It was not possible to move the hippos and the animals soon lived near the Magdalena River. Their number has grown over the years and is now nearly 80. According to a study published in the journal Ecology, the hippos have become an invasive species and are destroying the aquatic ecosystem.

The region’s water supply is under threat thanks to hippo waste.

A team of researchers from the University of California at San Diego and the Universidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica de Colombia investigated the water quality of the lakes where hippos live, and compared them to lakes where they are not.

According to the study, hippos separate large amounts of waste into the lakes, changing the chemistry and oxygen levels of the water. This is because the excreted waste fertilizes harmful algae and bacteria.

According to Jonathan Shurin, lead author of the study, the hippos have a major impact on the ecosystem in their native Africa. He said a similar impact was seen when they were imported into an entirely new continent.

The Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar was known for his love of exotic animals.

He was once the owner of a grand estate, Hacienda Nápoles, just under 100 miles east of Medellin. In the early 1980s, Escobar built an illegal zoo full of rhinos, giraffes, zebras and hippos on his estate.

After his death it was seized by the government and now acts as a safari theme park. Most of the exotic animals that he housed in the on site zoo were re-homed. Except the hippos. Now, scientists say, the four original hippos now number around 80 and are having a detrimental effect on Colombian waters. 

While some remain in the current theme park, some slipped through the flimsy gate and are now feral. 

Escobar bought the hippos from a zoo in California and flew them to his ranch in the early 1980s. Left to themselves on his Napoles Estate, they bred to become supposedly the biggest wild hippo herd outside Africa.

Escobar’s hippos have become feral, living in at least four lakes in the area and spreading into neighboring rivers – confounding the problem.

The crime lord’s hippos are also much more sexually active than their cousins in Africa because of the perfect conditions, shallow water and no drought. 

All the fertile females are reported to be giving birth to a calf every year, the BBC said in 2014. And this is a problem for the water, if not local farmers who risk their wrath while working.  

“If you plot out their population growth, we show that it tends to go exponentially skyward. In the next couple of decades there could be thousands of them,” according to Jonathan Shurin, of UCSD.