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New Tuatara Encounter: A journey back 230 million years

New Tuatara Encounter – Take a journey with us back 230 million years!

The West Coast Wildlife in Franz Josef is proud to be announcing the opening of its brand new Tuatara Encounter in Franz Josef on Sunday 1st October 2017.

The new $175,000 addition to the existing attraction has been eagerly awaited and in the planning for the last two years, and brings together two of New Zealand’s most precious and rare endemic species.

Rowi kiwi and tuatara.

“Incredibly 230 million years ago when the first dinosaurs arrived on the scene the ancestors of the tuatara were still roaming the planet” says owner and Director Richard Benton.

Tuatara have great cultural significance to Maori and they have been translocated to Franz Josef by Nelson based Ngati Koata who have the largest tuatara population in the world.

“We left Franz Josef knowing that our tuatara are in good hands “said Louisa Paul from Ngati Koata.

The Six tuatara (one male and five females) are now settling quietly into their new home at the West Coast Wildlife Centre having spent most their lives living at Lady Isaac Conservation & Wildlife Trust in Christchurch.

Their new home has been purpose built to replicate a traditional tuatara coastal habitat with the help of Mr. Lindsay Hazley from Southland Museum & Art Gallery who has been working with tuatara for the last 45 years.

“It is such a privilege to be involved in the husbandry of tuatara and with such an endangered species, and it’s really special to be present for the very first arrival of tuatara in Franz Josef” says Mr. Hazley.

The West Coast Wildlife Centre have recruited a specialist tuatara Ranger who has recently relocated to Franz Josef from Wellington Zoo to look after the new arrivals. “Josh Forrest is a very welcome member of our Wildlife Centre team and has already showed great initiative and skills’ says West Coast Wildlife Centre Operations Manager Lisa Stevenson.

Tuatara became extinct on the mainland last century and today live mainly on offshore islands around New Zealand. Around 50,000 to 60,000 live on Stephens Island( Takaporaewa) in the Marlborough Sounds.

The West Coast Wildlife Centre is the South Island’s largest kiwi hatching facility and is a very successful public private partnership with the Department of Conservation. It is open to the general public from 8am daily and entry tickets are all valid for a 24-hour period.

It has won the West Coast Leading Lights Awards and has been judged by Lonely Planet as one of its top 12 favorite new places to visit in New Zealand.

Here visitors can go “Behind The Scenes” to see for themselves the kiwi hatching and rearing facilities, meet the dedicated team of kiwi rangers, and see the world’s rarest kiwi’s ( rowi ) up close in the nocturnal house and bush walkway.

From October 1st customers will also be able to go “Behind The Scenes” with a tuatara ranger to discover more about this incredible reptile and have a photo taken with a live tuatara.

The Tours depart at 10am,12pm,3pm and 4.30pm daily and last around 25 minutes.

Numerous businesses, local dedicated people and visitors to New Zealand have proudly supported the West Coast Wildlife Centre’s sponsorship program, which helps the West Coast Wildlife Centre to fund purchasing food, incubation and brooder room equipment, veterinary products and build new facilities.

“We really value the support we get for our facility from the West Coast community and beyond” says Operations Manager Lisa Stevenson, and “we encourage any visitors to Franz Josef to drop in and see for themselves this really exciting kiwi and now tuatara facility on the West Coast.”


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