UK tuatara birth a 'euphoric moment'

UK tuatara birth a 'euphoric moment'

For the first time a tuatara has been successfully bred outside New Zealand -- in an English zoo.

Snakes and reptiles aren't for everyone, but for Chester Zoo keeper Isolde McGeorge, they're everything.

"I like to look at reptiles all the time," she says.

And of them all it's Baby Isolde, her namesake, she's most fond of.

"It's more than Jurassic Park, it's before the dinosaurs, it's during the dinosaurs and it's after the dinosaurs."

It took eight months for the egg to hatch.

"I was sobbing my eyes out it was just absolutely incredible," reptile keeper Ms McGeorge says.

"It was a euphoric moment for us. It's one of things we've been trying to achieve for a very long time."

Day in, day out, Ms McGeorge watched and waited.

"The night before the eggs hatched there were two tiny beads of sweat that appeared on the shell and I just, oh there were prickles down my spine."

For 38 years she's been trying to breed tuatara shipped from New Zealand.

Now she's done it she's attached -- hand picking food, hand feeding, hands-on.

"On the days that I'm not working I break out into cold sweats sometimes in the middle of the night."

There are six adult tuatara at Chester Zoo -- just one male, Pixie.

The ancient reptiles don't have external ear openings, they have a third eye and the male has no penis.

But what males lack they make up for with an elaborate mating ritual.

"I've watched him perform his stiff legged walk around the female," Ms McGeorge says.

So it's a romantic ceremony then?

"Well it's absolutely amazing to see," she says.

But there's scandal in the sanctuary. The mother, Mustard, may not, in fact, be the mother. Another female, Red, is showing more familial resemblance.

"There have been regular little dramas going on."

For now Baby Isolde's being kept separate --  away from any drama and her parents who would likely eat her.