Invercargill tuatara getting frisky

20:03, Sep 15 2011
WELCOME ARRIVALS: Southland Museum and Art Gallery tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley with Henry and Mildred's five new healthy babies.
WELCOME ARRIVALS: Southland Museum and Art Gallery tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley with Henry and Mildred's five new healthy babies.

Invercargill tuatara, including former "grumpy old bugger" Henry, has been a little too eager with the ladies at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, creating a slight headache for curator Lindsay Hazley.

Henry has become a father again, with five healthy babies hatched about seven weeks ago. The latest arrivals add to the first surviving six, born three years ago.

While the latest family additions are welcome arrivals, Henry's lust for his "soulmate" Mildred, along with the museum's other tuataras' randy antics, has resulted in the tuatarium almost reaching capacity.

More than 80 tuatara call the museum home.

The museum's tuatara surplus was the result of overcoming captive-breeding problems and the acrylic roof installed about five years ago, which allowed ultraviolet light through, Mr Hazley said.

He said he had been hatching a long-term plan to shift some of the tuatara to predator-free islands in Foveaux Strait.

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"In the next year or two we should have a clear direction about what will happen in the south," he said.

Certain elements, such as climate and soil temperature, would need to be checked before sending the tuatara away, he said.

"There's a lot of homework to do. I don't want to just throw them out on an island to die," he said.

Most years he had shipped eggs away for study at Victoria University, and if they got eggs this year they would be shipped to the Otago University.

Invercargill's oldest celebrity, Henry, became a bit of a stud after an operation to remove a cancerous tumour from his private parts caused a "personality transplant".

"After all those years he was such a stroppy, aggressive, angry man and now he's died and gone to heaven and making up for lost time," Mr Hazley said.

As the baby tuatara were hatched naturally, they had a better chance of survival, and while four of them look healthy, "one is a little runty," he said.

Mr Hazley suspects there would have been between 10 and 12 in the clutch, but some may have been dinner for Henry and Mildred.

The Southland Times