Tuatara travel from Invercargill to Auckland


Four new tuatara have been welcomed to Auckland's Kelly Tarlton's aquarium, settling in after a long trek up from Invercargill.

The four females were born at Invercargill's Southland Museum and Art Gallery as part of the national breeding program.

Of course, they didn't travel up the country alone -- the tuatara were escorted by Kelly Tarlton's curator Andrew Christie, Ngati Koata Trust tuatara handler Noela McGregor, and Ngati Koata trust kaumatua Joseph and Priscilla Paul.

While down south, the tuatara were cared for by Nelson iwi Ngati Koata, who were the creatures' kaitiaki (guardians).

After a handover ceremony, guardianship was transferred to Auckland iwi Ngati Whatua.

And up in Auckland, they get to reside in style. The Department of Conservation consulted on the custom-built enclosure the tuatara now call home.

It's temperature-controlled and filled with native plants, with special lighting in place that Mr Christie says enhances both the ancient creatures and the surrounding plantlife.

"It's a fantastic-looking display," he says. "We're really pleased and proud that we've got tuatara on display."

Mr Christie says Kelly Tarlton's is delighted to have the tuatara.

"It's always been a dream of Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life to have tuatara on display. They're a magnificent animal and they've been around for millions of years, and they're very iconic to all New Zealanders."

Due to a lack of safe sanctuaries for tuatara to live in, there are no plans to breed them just yet. But Mr Christie hopes exposing the public to the historic creatures will help raise awareness for the species.

"They're an animal that were in huge decline for a while there, and it's about raising people's awareness and advocating for the species," he says.

"They are so special to New Zealand and the greater world. They're an iconic species."

The four tuatara are six years old, and with an average life expectancy of 100 years they've got a long time to kick back and relax in their new home.

They're on display as part of the Kelly Tarlton's Jurassic Seas exhibit.