Celebrity wildlife parents

Last updated 14:01 27/02/2013

Forget the Kardashians or even Will and Kate, our native wildlife parents are world famous in NZ.

Oldies but goodies...
These days, there's a lot of debate about becoming parents when you're older, but our native wildlife families take it in their stride.

The most famous of our celebrity wildlife parents at the moment is probably Henry the tuatara. Henry resides at Southland Museum, and is thought to be about 116 years old. Despite his longevity, Henry has only recently become a dad - fathering 11 tuatara babies when he was 111 years of age. His late entry into fatherhood is most likely due to a growth he had removed from his "bottom" that was in all probability getting in the way of "business time".

Henry the tuatara (photo: Nicole Gourley)

Henry the tuatara (and his keeper Lindsay Hazley) enjoy a healthy media profile. (Photo: Nicole Gourley/Fairfax.)

Henry is a regular headline stealer at the Southland Times, and a favourite of visitors to the Southland Museum. Last month there was concern that despite his renewed lust for life, Henry might well be shooting blanks; just weeks later he was caught in the act with one of his several girlfriends, so perhaps Henry may continue to sow his wild oats for some years to come.

Last month another baby boomer parent made headlines - the story of Wisdom the albatross, who is still successfully hatching chicks at 62. This record matches that of Grandma - a Northern royal albatross from Taiaroa Head on the Otago Peninsula who was at least 61, but probably older. She raised chicks at the colony for 50 years, before disappearing a few years ago. Grandma was so famous and well-loved, she even had a documentary made about her.

Scene stealers
Some of our native wildlife families love the paparazzi and make the most of their social media profiles. One such example is that of Alfie Kaka - resident friendly kaka at Zealandia. He is pretty prolific for a bird in social media (he has a Twitter page and a Facebook page) - and last year when he and his missus hatched four charismatic kaka babies (dubbed the "Alflets" by Zealandia staff). "Alfie" proudly loaded pictures of his growing brood on Facebook, much to his online friends' delight.

Young kaka chicks (photo: Judy Briggs and Karen Koopu)older kaka chicks (photo: Judy Briggs and Karen Koopu)

Alfie Kaka tweeted and posted pictures of his chicks like any proud dad. (Photo: Judy Briggs and Karen Koopu of Zealandia.)

Other parents who've gobbled up the limelight include the unassuming kiwi mum and dad of Manukura kiwi - the first white kiwi chick to hatch at Pukaha Mount Bruce (there have since ben another two white kiwi chicks). For whatever reason, we humans love white animals, and kiwi chicks are no exception. Manukura has had a Facebook page, plenty of media attention, a soft toy made of it, and a book written in Manukura's honour.

Maternal marine mammals
The story of "Mum" is perhaps one of our most touching and well-loved nature stories. Mum is a New Zealand sea lion who may just hold the key to the survival of the entire species. Mum turned up in the Taieri Mouth area of Otago in 1993 with a very special mission - to deliver the first pup to be born on mainland New Zealand in perhaps 200 years. 

New Zealand sea lions "home" to their breeding sites, which means females return to where they were born to have their own pups. Nobody knows why Mum decided to travel more than 700km from her home breeding ground of the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands to the Otago coastline, but her decision to do so may have changed the fate of the entire species. Currently, there is a growing population of the endangered sea lions around Otago, a welcome sign since the main colony in the Auckland Islands has seen an almost 50 per centt decline over a 10-year period.

What I love the most about the Mum story is that the Otago locals keep an eye out for her (and her progeny) every year, and they are usually the first to let DOC know the sea lions have returned.

Mum and Pup (NZ sea lion pup)

Mum is one of the most famous of our wildlife parents -and beloved by her local human community. (Photo: New Zealand sea lion trust.)

Did you know about any of these famous families? Who's your favourite?

Please feel free to email me to send me your questions, feedback, ideas or photographs for In Our Nature blog posts. You can also join the In Our Nature Facebook page.

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