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Top technician award for tuatara TLC

Top technician award for tuatara TLC


06 June 2008

Top technician award for tuatara TLC

Flawless and innovative animal husbandry techniques with tuatara have earned Victoria University conservation biology technician Sue Keall the Animal Technician's Award for 2008 by the Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching.

Ms Keall will receive her award at the organisation's annual conference at the end of June, where she will deliver a talk on her tuatara conservation work.

Director of the University's tuatara biology and conservation programme, Professor Charles Daugherty says that Ms Keall, primarily responsible for care of tuatara at Victoria since 1991, has been pivotal to the University's long-term research.

Numbers of tuatara in the Victoria colony have varied from as few as five to several hundred. Ms Keall has cared for hatchlings, juvenile and adult animals, and has also been responsible for the incubation of eggs from both captive populations and wild populations threatened with extinction.

Professor Daugherty says Ms Keall has led the improved husbandry of tuatara at institutions in New Zealand and overseas—in particular at the San Diego Zoo—and that her work has been essential to ongoing research programmes aimed at ensuring the future of tuatara. Additionally, she has worked tirelessly to educate New Zealanders on the significance of conservation using tuatara as a flagship species.

He says that Ms Keall's work has enabled population growth on northern offshore islands and that her Little Barrier Island work has been particularly successful, with more than 130 juveniles successfully hatched from eggs. In May, Ms Keall and Professor Daugherty released the third lot of juvenile tuatara on Little Barrier Island, and the Department of Conservation rangers on the island continue to consult Ms Keall for husbandry advice on a regular basis.

Ms Keall collects insects to ensure the reptiles have an adequate natural diet, and her expertise has ensured very high survival rates of eggs and all life stages from hatchling to adult, as well as very low rates of illness or injury in captive populations. In 1995 she completed the prestigious Diploma in Endangered Species Management at the Jersey Zoo, as one of few New Zealanders to have been admitted to the programme.


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