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12 Precious Baby Tuatara Arrivals

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12 Precious Baby Tuatara Arrivals
Rotorua, 4 July 2012 – 12 of New Zealand's own living dinosaurs have just hatched at Rotorua's Rainbow Springs.

The precious baby tuatara, which are native to New Zealand, are rarely bred in captivity and follow close on the heels of the park's first hatch of tuatara eggs 14 months ago. Tuatara are the only surviving members of the genus Sphenodon, a species that existed alongside the dinosaurs and is more than 200 million years old.

The latest arrivals hatched after a 222 day incubation period - housed safely in a cozy ice-cream container.

Mark Paterson, Wildlife & Presentations Manager says, "I had my suspicions that Fafa was gravid so I x-rayed her for confirmation. When she laid the eggs I then carefully transferred them into a climate controlled enclosure, carefully monitoring and weighing the eggs every week to ensure they were gaining weight and developing."

The first tuatara emerged on June 6 and the final 12th one on 18 June, ranging in weight between 4.1 - 5.8 grams. The proud parents are Fafa (26 years) and Bugsy (54), who also fathered the first clutch.
Tuatara are very rarely bred in captivity and the team at Rainbow Springs is proud to be involved in their ongoing conservation.

The baby tuatara are in isolation for the next few weeks gaining strength before moving out into a bigger enclosure, and Rainbow Springs staff say they are off to a great start displaying healthy eating and hunting instincts, feeding on a staple diet of flies, larvae and locusts. The public will have a chance for their first look in about six months time, around Christmas time.

While the sex of the new arrivals hasn't yet been determined, as with other reptiles the warmer the soil around the eggs, the greater the chance they will be males and the cooler the soil, the greater the chance they will be females.

Tuatara facts:
Tuatara have the potential to live up to 300 years in the right conditions. The average life span is 80 - 100 years. The oldest in captivity is Henry who is 120 - 130 years old in the Tuatarium at Invercargill.
Only once every two to five years will the female be ready to mate. The male will sit outside her burrow and wait. If she is interested they will mate and 8 or 9 months later she will lay and bury 6 to 10 eggs in a sunny place. 11 to 16 months later the baby tuatara will hatch.
Tuatara take 35 years to grow to their full size of 600mm (24 inches or 2ft). They also have the longest incubation period of any reptile with eggs taking up to 15 months to hatch.
The nocturnal tuatara is an unblinking reptile with a thick scaly skin.
This small ‘dragon’ also has irregular spines descending from the back of the head and down along the ridged back. The Tuatara are nocturnal animals who also appear sluggish during the hours of darkness.
In cooler temperatures during winter their metabolism slows down to 10 heart beats per min and 1 breath per hour. During this time, because their metabolism has slowed they don't require food. They can survive without eating for a year.
Tuatara are ‘stand-and wait’ carnivores that snatch almost any small animal straying within reach, including weta, spiders, skinks, geckos, and even birds and their eggs or chicks.
Juvenile tuatara are diurnal (active during the daytime) to avoid being prey for larger (largely nocturnal) tuatara.
In Māori tuatara means 'spiny back' and refers to the row of spines down its back.
Rainbow Springs is an icon of New Zealand tourism and has been open since 1932. Spread over 22 acres of Rotorua parkland, Rainbow Springs is a conservation and breeding haven for endangered New Zealand species such as Kiwi and tuatara. The park offers a unique wildlife experience for visitors, who can see animals in their natural environment, both during the day and night. Features of the award winning tourist attraction include New Zealand's only 'open to view' Kiwi hatchery, and a range of wildlife including trout, tuatara and native birds.
Rainbow Springs, Fairy Springs Road, Rotorua.

© Scoop Media

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