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Juvenille Tuatara Bestowed Ancestral Name in Ceremony

Juvenille Tuatara Bestowed Ancestral Name in Ceremony

Rotorua, 21 June 2013 – A female tuatara chosen from a 2011 clutch hatched at Rainbow Springs has today been bestowed the name of Ngāti Ranginui ancestress, Taurikura in a ceremony at Rainbow Springs Wildlife Park, Rotorua.

The ceremony was the first of its kind and facilitated by Ngāi Tahu for the Ngāi Tamarawaho Hapu (Ngāti Ranginui). Speaking on behalf of Ngāti Ranginui Patrick Nicholas described the occasion as being about “our waka Takitumu and the relationship between Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Ranginui.” Mr Nicholas described his tribe’s ancestress Taurikura as now living on through this precious gift, of a young female Tuatara born from parents who hailed from Karewa Island in the Tauranga region.

This precious young female will now carry with her the story and spirit of her ancestral name. Taurikura is an ancient story of a cheeky little girl who would not go and fetch water for her Koro (grandfather). The story unfolds of one of shame and disappointment where Taurikura feels she can no longer face her tribe and in an act of self- punishment she takes a kit of charms and goes in the dead of night to a river and changes herself into a ngarara, a creature resembling a lizard so as to avoid recognition forever.

In her lizard form, Taurikura swam downstream towards Tauranga Moana, finally settling upon the rocky island of Karewa. It is from here that she became the ancestor of the tuatara.

Taurikura is remembered most at Matarawa (Judea) where her form can be seen in the carved poupou at the meeting house Tamateapokaiwhenua. She now can also be remembered at Rainbow Springs where Taurikura will remain as a very special ‘tut’ and example of a highly successful captive breeding programme that the wildlife park is internationally renowned for.

Ngāi Tahu General Manager of Strategy and Business Development and Acting General Manager Rainbow Springs, Dean Lawrie spoke on behalf of Ngāi Tahu saying “it is a great honour for Rainbow Springs and Ngāi Tahu to be able to work with other iwi. Rainbow Springs operates in the rohe (territory) of Ngāti Whakaue and Te Arawa, whom we acknowledge. It has been a privilege for us to be involved in something so significant as the naming of a female tuatara after one of their ancestors.

Tuatara facts:
• Tuatara have the po11tial 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 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 of11 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 Kiwi Wildlife Park 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.


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