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Tuatara Go on the Road

Media Release
December 10

Tuatara Go on the Road

Tuatara are not known for gadding about, but from next year they’ll be on the road in the Top of the South, visiting schools and making themselves better known.

Tuatara road-shows are just one project of the Spinyback Tuatara Education and Conservation Charitable Trust, which is launching its programme at a function on Wednesday (December 12).

Trust Chair, Dion Paul, says the Spinyback Trust aims to develop the capacity of Nelson’s Ngati Koata iwi as the kaitiaki (guardian) of the tuatara.

“Ninety percent of the worldwide population of this ancient reptile lives at Takapourewa (Stephen’s Island), which is the ancestral home of our iwi,” he said. “We want to help the people of Aotearoa-New Zealand and further afield to know more about tuatara, and thus to care about them and their future conservation.”

The tuatara roadshows will involve two presenters from Ngati Koata who will deliver an interactive learning experience that integrates science and traditional knowledge of tuatara.

“As well as their biology and history, the tuatara create an opportunity for us to introduce Maori folk lore, waiata (song) and possibly even a haka for the children to learn,” Mr Paul said. “There will be a side show, art activities and a much ‘closer encounter’ with the tuatara than you have in a zoo or museum.”

The roadshows will be offered to schools, community groups and possibly corporate functions. Mr Paul said there would be strict protocols to ensure the tuatara were always relaxed and cared for and they would continue to spend most of their time at Nelson’s Natureland Zoo.

“We are very excited about the opportunities as iwi members develop experience in presentation and animal husbandry skills. We would love to see this roadshow go global so everyone can learn more about this very rare taonga (treasure) that is in Ngati Koata care, “ Mr Paul said.

With the support of major funder, Waimea Estates, the Spinyback Trust has developed a website and hopes to extend the range of educational opportunities offered in the future.

“These projects aim to help tuatara to survive and thrive in their natural habitat,” Mr Paul said. “The trust is working with other groups involved with the care and understanding of tuatara - and building on the links we already have with the School of Biological Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington and the Department of Conservation.”

People who want to help by becoming involved or donating money can find out more at which will go live as part of the launch on the December 12.


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