Press Release – Zealandia
Lorna Borrett was startled to find a tuatara while walking her dog Dobby. She wasn’t sure what it was and phoned her partner Jacob Rosevear. ”I only knew of tuatara through the brand of beer, which Jacob drinks.”
“It was kind of a cool experience – there can’t be that many people in the world that have come across a tuatara in the wild,” Ms Borrett said.
Lorna immediately alerted Zealandia staff who were quick to the scene.
The tuatara was taken to Wellington Zoo’s The Nest Te Kōhanga where it was assessed and admitted for rehabilitation. The sanctuary has partnered with Wellington Zoo extensively in the past to ensure that injured, native wildlife receives the best care possible.
Wellington Zoo veterinarian, Baukje Lenting says the tuatara has been stabilised and given pain relief.
“The tail was badly damaged and he has been operated on to assess how bad the damage is. The rest of his tail was amputated and we will monitor his progress overnight.” said Lenting.
Conservation manager, Raewyn Empson says the most likely explanation is that it climbed the fence. “There was no evidence that it burrowed under the mammal exclusion fence. The injuries that it sustained are likely a result of a) a reflex reaction to the fall from the fence or b) injuries sustained as a result of an animal finding it outside of the fence.”
This is the first time Zealandia has been made aware of a tuatara escaping from the sanctuary. It was originally transferred from Stephen’s Island in 2007. When it was transferred, it was 45 centimetres in length and was fitted with an identifying microchip.
A tail-less tuatara
Zealandia is grateful to the member of the public who reported the injured tuatara. It’s reassuring to see caring people getting involved and looking out for endangered species around the sanctuary.
In the wild, the tuatara would not survive, but thanks to community efforts, the exclusion of mammals at Zealandia and the facilities at The Nest Te Kōhanga, they have a fighting chance.
• Tuatara are a rare reptile found only in New Zealand.
• Tuatara were extinct from the mainland since the late 1700’s until they were released at Zealandia in 2005.
Why are tuatara important?
• Tuatara are the only living member of the Rhynchocephalia order. Their ancestors were well represented by many species during the age of the dinosaurs. This makes them important in understanding reptile evolution.
• Tuatara reproduction is affected by temperature. The temperature that eggs experience during incubation will determine the sex of the hatchlings. Scientists suspect that global warming could cause the extinction of tuatara. Once a population has more males than females, not enough young can be produced to replace old animals.