A rare tuatara treat for the kids

Last updated 07:24 26/06/2012
Regan Russell
JARED NICOLL
Ecoworld manager Regan Russell with daughter Xaria Russell, 6, stroking a four-year-old Cook Strait Island tuatara.

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Children walked with dinosaurs at the EcoWorld aquarium last week.

About 76 adults and children touched tuatara, eye-balled eels and glimpsed friendly fish under neon lights during the Picton Kindergarten's A Night at the Aquarium fundraiser at EcoWorld last Thursday.

The tuatara, Maori for "peaks on the back", so named because of the small spikes along its back, has ancestry which dates back to the same period when dinosaurs roamed the Earth more than 225 million years ago.

They are reptiles, a cold-blooded species, nocturnal and prefer to hibernate during winter, so it was a rare treat to see them out of their cages as opposed to hidden away, as they are during normal business hours.

Co-ordinator Rachel Russell said the event was a rare opportunity to see the aquarium's creatures behave as they would at night.

"It's something a bit different. We've seen them during the day, which is great, but some of them, especially the tuataras, are more active at night.

"It's gone really well. We're so thankful for the turnout."

She said the money raised would go towards bits and pieces at the kindergarten. "Last time, we spent it on outdoor equipment."

Mrs Russell's daughter, Xaria Russell, 6, said the best bit was feeling the smooth cold-blooded bodies of the Stephens Island tuatara.

"They were really soft, but cold on my fingers."

Xaria's father, EcoWorld manager Regan Russell, said the aquarium was thrilled to support the kindergarten.

Committee members sold hot soup made by the children, from ingredients donated by Fresh Choice, before the annual town walk began.

Faya Wayman, 5, said the group walk along the foreshore was her favourite part of the evening.

"On the lantern walk, we got to spin our glow sticks," she said happily.

Faya enjoyed seeing her friends and her favourite exhibit was a "really big" groper fish.

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- The Marlborough Express

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