City's tuatara breeding programme in danger

Museum bursting at seams

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 29/05/2014
Tuatara
Fairfax NZ

BOYS CLUB: Climate change is leading to male tuatara outnumbering females.

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Henry the tuatara's rampant sex life could be given the snip.

Sex could be a thing of the past at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery after a city councillor suggested the tuatara breeding programme be given the chop.

Councillor Karen Arnold has called for a review of the programme.

At the council meeting earlier this week, Arnold said she did not see why Invercargill needed the programme any more.

"My understanding is that they are all over the show now," she said.

Speaking after the meeting, Arnold said she was not suggesting the dinosaur relics were turfed out on their tails, but the cost and relevance of the programme should be investigated.

"I know what a wonderful thing it is to have Henry but I would be curious to know whether the breeding programme is sustainable."

Arnold raised the issue after plans for the development of the museum were presented to the council.

But tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley said there was no way he could stop the love affair.

"When we have got animals, they are going to breed; it's just a natural thing."

Hazley said the creatures were rare and endangered and it would be irresponsible to stop breeding them.

There are now 90 tuatara at the museum.

About 90 per cent of the overall population lived on Stephens Island and if they were wiped out or ravaged by disease, it would catastrophic. That was why captive management programmes were needed, he said.

The museum supplied tuatara to places throughout the country and it would be detrimental to the population to stop that, he said.

"By having them breed here it opens a whole new pathway for them to be sent to the Southern islands. There are requests right around the country for the animals."

But on top of the advantages for the population, the programme, which has been running since 1984, also reaped benefits for the museum, he said.

"Most museums have dead, stuffed things. We wanted to have live things . . . it's the point of difference; it's our bread and butter."

Museum manager Paul Horner also said the programme was beneficial to the museum.

While the museum was bursting at the seems with tuatara, it was hoped some would be relocated this year.

The programme costs $13,000 a year to run.

louise.berwick@stl.co.nz

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