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Baby Tuatara Hatches on Matiu/Somes Island

Baby Tuatara Hatches on Matiu/Somes Island

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A photograph taken of a baby tuatara on Wellington Harbour’s Matiu/Somes Island this month has confirmed for the first time that the rare reptiles are hatching on the island.

The juvenile, just a few months old and about 8cm long, was spotted by Harriot (8) and Nicholas Lane (10) and their cousin Harrison Vernon (11) while they were walking around the island with their grandparents Bob and Suzanne Vernon.

Tuatara were transferred to Matiu/Somes in 1998 and since then adult tuatara are regularly seen on the island. It has long been suspected that they are breeding, and this was finally proven when eggs were found on the island in 2007 and hatched at Victoria University.

But this is the first confirmation that young tuatara have hatched on the island itself.

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“We are very excited about this sighting,” Department of Conservation biodiversity programme manager Brent Tandy said.

“These reptiles are very secretive and it’s remarkable that the children saw one so small.”

“With all the hard work involved in restoring and maintaining this island reserve, it’s the icing on the cake to know that such rare animals are breeding.”

From the time tuatara hatch they live independently of adults and are usually seen during the day when the adults are in their burrows.

Mr Vernon said his grandchildren had seen skinks, robins and käkäriki, and then noticed the little reptile, but did not realise what it was until it moved its head.

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“It then came out of the foliage and hung around for several minutes. It seemed quite tame.”

Mr Vernon took several photos and alerted an island ranger, who confirmed it as a tuatara.

Tuatara are the only surviving members of a unique group- Rhynchocephalia- that roamed the earth 200 million years ago. Today they can only survive in areas free of mammalian predators, such as Matiu/Somes.


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