A tuatara making a great escape from an ecosanctuary has been foiled by an eagle-eyed stranger.
The 30-centimetre female tuatara made a dash for freedom through a water gate at Orokonui Ecosanctuary, north of Dunedin, but was spotted by a member of the public scuttling into the grass on the wrong side of the predator-proof fence.
The brazen daytime escape was soon over when Orokonui conservation manager, Elton Smith, located the tuatara 100 metres from the ecosanctuary and transferred her back inside.
As no fence breaches were found it was thought the reptile may have been swept through water gates that open during high rainfall.
Orokonui general manager Chris Baillie said the plucky tuatara would have been given a wild ride through the fast moving water.
Because the water was moving so quickly there was no danger of predators entering in the other direction, she said.
However, outside of the fence it was a different story and the tuatara wouldn't have survived long with cats, stoats and rats ready for an easy dinner.
The reptile did not go by any name or alias as it was one of 87 wild tuatara at the sanctuary, Baillie said.
It was the first time any reptile had escaped from the sanctuary since it opened in 2009, she said.