Fears Henry the tuatara might be infertile

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 01/02/2013
Lindsay Hazley
NICOLE GOURLEY/Fairfax NZ

OLD MAN: Southland Museum tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley with Henry, the 116-year-old tuatara.

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Legendary lothario Henry the tuatara may be firing blanks.

Henry, believed about 116, has spent much of his life celibate after suffering from a cancerous growth in his nether regions for years but, once the growth was removed about five years ago, he hit the breeding scene with a vengeance, siring at least 14 babies.

However, tuatarium staff are worried he has become infertile.

Southland Museum and Art Gallery tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley was concerned about Henry's fertility after evidence the tuatara may not have "enough ammunition to go around".

Henry's girlfriends, Lucy, Mildred and Juliet, had laid 30 eggs after spending time with their main man, but only a couple from his first date were fertilised.

With little research to go on, staff were not sure whether the deficiency was because of Henry's old age, his active lothario lifestyle or an unrelated medical problem.

"They don't know anything about how long tuataras are fertile for. It's quite a learning curve."

Hoping to contribute to reptile research and help Henry, Mr Hazley collected sperm samples from the museum's male tuatara. While most samples appeared healthy under the microscope, Henry's looked in "bits and pieces".

Mr Hazley said the samples had gone to University of Auckland, where Dr Patrick Casey, a "sperm expert", would analyse them.

Meanwhile, the other tuatara at the museum were seeking shelter as, "unlike snakes and lizards, they do not like excessive heat"."

The reptiles had been lurking in the shade of their burrows, because if their body temperatures reached 25 degrees Celsius, they risked death, Mr Hazley said.

Prolonged exposure to heat weakened their immune systems, allowing fungi in the soil to slip in under their scales and infect the blood stream.

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- The Southland Times

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