Zealandia was unveiling some new Tuatara nurseries on the 6th November with the introduction of a number of juveniles that had been raised at Victoria University. I had been asked if I would take some photos of the release and was more than happy to oblige. Keryn and I were at the visitor centre for opening time and introduced ourselves to Brian and Peter who were organising everyone. Once all the relevant dignitaries had arrived we entered the valley and all walked down to the location of the new nurseries, the young tuatara being transported to their new homes in adapted plastic containers.

There was a small crowd on people in attendance as we heard first from Neavin of the Tenths Trust (Te Ati Awa), then from representatives of Ngati Koata. Brian gave a welcome and background on behalf of the Karori Sanctuary Trust and the final word went to Sean Murrie of Tuatara Breweries (who helped sponsor the project).

MG 6674Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A blessing.

MG 6683Photo by Brendon & Keryn

From Ngati Koata there were words and song.

MG 6685Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Brian gives some background.

MG 6703Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Sean cuts the ribbon.

Once Sean had cut the ribbon it was left to Sue and Nicky from Victoria University to carefully release the tuatara into the three nurseries, everyone crowding in to catch a glimpse of the little lizards (actually not lizards, but sphenodontia) being introduced to their new accommodation. Most of the tuatara quickly took refuge in the hollows and burrows they were placed next too but luckily a few hardy ones stayed out where they could be seen and admired. Once they were all inside some food was also put into each nursery, moths and small calcium dusted locusts.

MG 6715Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Releasing the tuatara.

MG 6721Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Small but feisty.

MG 6750Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Tuatara spotting.

MG 6770Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Checking out the new home.

Each nursery is quite large and had been prepared with leaf litter, small plants and other typical forest floor material. Depressions were in place so each tuatara could have it’s own area and the hope is that they will burrow through the deep sandy base and over time it might be possible to see the burrows through a window in the base of structure.

MG 6791Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Looking at one of the nurseries.

Back near the visitor centre on the front lawn Sue had another visitor with her who usually resides at the University. Spike is a male tuatara and seemed quite content to drape over Sue’s arm, quite placid as people tentatively took turns to touch his scaly skin.

MG 6809Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Meet Spike.

MG 6830Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Up close and personal with a national treasure.

MG 6875Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Nicky takes over the holding duties.

It was an informative and interesting visit, hopefully the tuatara will love their new nurseries and lots of people will be able to get a little closer to these interesting animals.

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