Henry, 111, is finally in the mood

Last updated 05:00 20/02/2013

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One of Invercargill's oldest residents got caught in the act when he had sex in a public place last week.

Longtime Southland Museum and Art Gallery resident Henry the tuatara finally proved his manhood at age 111, when he was caught in the act by tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley on Friday afternoon.

For the past two months Henry has been shacked up with three female tuatara, in the hopes he would breed for the first time.

At 5pm on Friday Mr Hazley checked on the tuatara and to his delight he found Henry getting intimate with Mildred, a "prolific breeder" 70 to 80 years old.

"I'm just totally chuffed at what I've been trying to get from old Henry ever since I started looking after him, " Mr Hazley said.

"It's a major, major thing ...

He's never mated in his life in Southland, that we know of." Henry has been with the museum since 1972 and had never shown an interest in mating.

However, when he did show interest, he made sure it was noticed. Tuatara mate at night and Mr Hazley said until he witnessed Henry and Mildred in the act last week he had never before seen tuatara mating during the day.

Last year Henry was paired with Juliet, a 20-year-old female and, despite showing promising signs, the duo failed to mate.

Henry has been well known for his aggression and for 15 years was kept in solitary confinement because he did not get on with other tuatara.

Twice in the past Henry bit off Mildred's tail when attempts were made to breed the pair.

It seemed an operation a few years ago could be behind Henry's change of heart, Mr Hazley said.

In 2001 a cancerous lump was removed from Henry's rear end, and when he had recovered his personality seemed to have changed and he lost his aggression.

This could be the reason behind his new-found interest in the ladies, or the answer could be the new roof on his enclosure, Mr Hazley said.

It was unlikely Henry would mate with Mildred again this year but he might do so with his other room-mates Lucy and Juliet.

Mr Hazley was reasonably confident of Henry's fertility but the chance of offspring would not be known until a few days after Mildred laid her eggs, probably in September or October.

Should Henry produce offspring they would bring genetic diversity into the museum's breeding programme, Mr Hazley said.

"He's looking out there with a wee smirk on his face now."

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- The Southland Times


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