Archives For tuatara

We look back at our native species that have captured the attention of the internet world this year.

Continue Reading...

Today’s photo of the week is of one of New Zealand’s famous reptiles—the tuatara.

The tuatara is the only living representative of an ancient lineage, the order Sphenodontia, which is over 250 million years old.

Tuatara.

This week Victoria University of Wellington researchers published rare footage of a tuatara hatching from an egg.

The egg was one of 23 being incubated in captivity this year as part of a joint initiative with DOC and local Hauturu ō Toi/Little Barrier Island Mana Whenua.

This initiative is helping to save the threatened tuatara population from extinction.

Watch the video of a tuatara hatching:

Photo by Somaholiday | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Codenamed ‘Tuatara on Tour’, DOC, together with Air New Zealand and Ngāti Koata, have just achieved the largest and most complex tuatara relocation ever undertaken.

Over 260 tuatara were transported, on commercial flights from Wellington to Gisborne, Hamilton and Dunedin, to live in new homes at predator-free locations on the mainland. DOC staff were on hand to help facilitate the relocation.

The tuatara traveled by helicopter from Takapourewa (Stephens Island) in the Marlborough Sounds to Wellington Airport. After hanging out in the Koru Lounge and meeting some of their fellow passengers, the ancient reptiles boarded their flights, housed in their own travelling tubes complete with “handle with care” baggage tags.

Mike Elkington (Ngati Koata), Chris Birmingham (DOC), Rob Fyfe (Air New Zealand) and one Takapourewa tuatara on board an Air New Zealand plane.

Mike Elkington (Ngati Koata), Chris Birmingham (DOC), Rob Fyfe (Air New Zealand) and one Takapourewa tuatara

Carrianne Boyd checks the tuatara through to Maugatautari in the Waikato

Carrianne Boyd checks the tuatara through to Maugatautari in the Waikato

Tuatara are not well known for being frequent flyers, in fact they don’t generally travel more than about 20 metres from their burrows over the entire course of their lives. Luckily Air New Zealand stepped in and was happy to provide them with the transport needed to ensure these mainland populations could be re-established throughout the country.

60 of the tuatara flew to Dunedin where they were relocated to the Orokonui Sanctuary. This marks the first return of the species to the wild in the South Island and is by far the furthest south that tuatara have been free to roam in 100 years.

Other groups of tuatara went to Whangaokeno Island in north east of Gisborne, Cape Sanctuary in Hawke’s Bay, Young Nicks Head Sanctuary near Gisborne and Maungatautari in Central Waikato.

Takapourewa, where the reptiles originate, is also predator free and home to around 30,000 tuatara, which is around half of the country’s population.

Handle with care tags attached to the tuatara cargo.

‘Handle with care’ tags were attached to this precious cargo

Because Takapourewa is home to so many tuatara it is hoped that relocating these living fossils will enable them to grow bigger. The overpopulation on Takapourewa means that the tuatara won’t grow to their full capacity. There has also been evidence that some of the mature males have hunted juveniles.

The relocation was a great success and all the tuatara arrived safe and sound at their new homes.


Have you been lucky enough to see a tuatara in real life? What did you think of these amazing and ancient creatures? We’d love to hear your story. Leave us a comment.


Tuatara facts

  • Tuatara were once widespread in New Zealand but were extinct on the mainland by the late 1700s due to predation by introduced mammals, human harvest and habitat changes.
  • Tuatara survive naturally on about 30 offshore islands – the equivalent of just 0.5% of their former range.
  • New Zealand’s total tuatara population is estimated at greater than 60,000.

It probably doesn’t surprise you to hear that people love visiting our native animals online at www.doc.govt.nz. What may surprise you are the native animals people like visiting the most.

#10 Kaka

This amusing, social and boisterous parrot seems to be as much fun to hang out with online as in the real world.

Kaka

#9 Frogs

New Zealand’s four species of native frog may be cold-blooded, but they’re warmly regarded, and well visited, on the DOC website.

Hamilton's frog

#8 Tui

It’s not too much of a stretch to see why this pretty and popular song bird made the list. 

Tui feeding

#7 Kakapo

This eccentric New Zealand parrot has a huge following, partly due to their high profile ambassador Sirocco, who regularly makes news headlines around the world.

Kakapo chicks

#6 Tuatara

The only survivor of an ancient group of reptiles that roamed the earth at the same time as dinosaurs, tuatara are internationally famous and endlessly fascinating.

Tuatara

#5 Bats

Maori refer to bats as pekapeka and associate them with the mythical, night-flying bird, hokioi, which foretells death or disaster. Despite this rather gloomy association we still love visiting them.

Short-tailed bat cluster

#4 Kiwi

The kiwi is New Zealand’s national icon and unofficial national emblem. The only surprise about kiwi would’ve been if it didn’t make our top 10.

Kiwi

#3 Weta

Beating many a fair and feathered creature, New Zealand’s most recognisable creepy-crawly takes third place.

Giant weta

#2 Eel

These slimy and snake-like creatures obviously have more love out there than we give them credit for.   

Longfin eel

#1 Gecko

One look at the photos on the gecko pages and you’ll understand why these gorgeous creatures made it to the number one spot.

Marlborough green gecko

So, that’s the top 10 native animals of 2011, based on the number of visits each of them received on the DOC website during the year. Do you think visitor numbers have given us an accurate picture of popularity? Did your favourite make the list? Let’s take a quick poll to find out…

Busking for kea

Siobhan File —  02/11/2011

Singing on the sidewalk and sizzling sausages are just some of the fundraising efforts made by Tairua School students to help save our native species.

Denise, Tim and Jack busking outside Tairua Four Square

After learning about New Zealand’s biodiversity, Room 5 students wanted to make a difference; and that they did. All together they raised a grand total of $495!

“We did good busking in the streets of Tairua, and we made $59.00 in just under an hour,” says Tim, who was in the Kea group.

Kea, tuatara, kokako, kakapo and the yellow eyed penguin were the chosen species, all receiving a boost to their survival chances thanks to these budding young conservationists.

Mohini and Maddie with the kakapo donation box

“The tuatara’s a unique animal to New Zealand. It’s one of the dinosaurs that’s been here for a million years, and if we don’t save them… who will?” says Henry, whose group raised $270 for DOC’s tuatara recovery project.

The tuatara group raffled off a board of scratchies

Children approached local businesses to ask for donations, organised a raffle with $50 worth of scratchies up for grabs, placed donation boxes in shops, sold good old fashioned sausages, and sang along to Tim’s guitar playing outside the local Four Square. They also put up posters around the community, promoted their cause on the radio, and advertised in the school newsletter.

The students’ teacher, Samantha Telfar, says the students initiated their action plans to help save an endangered species of their choice. “I’m really pleased with the students’ progress and enthusiasm they are showing for their native species projects,” she says.

The yellow eyed penguin group put posters in shops around town

Jaxon, who studied kakapo, learnt that “some are friendly, some are cruisy, and some are big eaters.”

Tairua locals are also big eaters, spending $73.80 on barbequed sausages, with funds helping out kokako.

Connor and the money raised for the kokako

“The plan is to have a kokako in every back yard, and so many we can harvest them,” says Glenn Kilpatrick, helping out behind the barbie.

The students presented their achievements to the class, including information on what they’d learnt, and what they’d do a second time around. Each group was happy with the fantastic results they’d achieved for their chosen species, and wished to thank everyone who’d donated towards their cause.

Kiwis are kea…

Siobhan File —  23/09/2011

Well, it seems a lot of them are anyway. A week after DOC put this very scientific native species determination chart up, nearly 3,000 people have completed it and the comments show most people are kea!

Have you found out what New Zealand native species you are? If so, tell us here!

Your thoughts so far…

Classic kea behaviour

“Kea all the way… WHOOP!” says Ian Martin about his result. Eighteen others agreed with him.

Being a kakapo, it seems right that (of the choices given) Sirocco’s closest match was the kea too. Although, his friend Oliver Christensen commented that he’d always fancied him as a rare shag! Touché Oliver.

The morepork/ruru was a popular outcome as well, and being quite spiritual, the night owls’ comments showed that they definitely felt a significant connection with their results.

Cute

Leanne Denz says, “Oooh! Apparently I am a Morepork – have always felt a fondness for those birds and it always feels like home when I hear them!”

And Lisa Miller says, “I’m a morepork… Got it twice (I started in wrong place first time!) so I guess it must be true… Always have been a bit of a night owl…”

Pamela Glading was happy with her result, “I’m a Ruru too and very flattered and happy about that! I think they are wise and wonderful, and I love to hear them call out to their friends.”

Slow and steady wins the race

While Pichi Pie even learnt something from the experience! “I’m a morepork =D! I didn’t know this animal before. It’s cute =D.”

There were a couple of tuatara, and two southern right whales, although Meri C Fox-Szauter wasn’t too happy with her result, “Well, oh boo of boos, I’m a southern right whale.”

And @greengecko29 says “I am a Southern right whale… not sure what I think about that. Beyond a fear of sharp harpoony things.” Poor southerns!

Just keeping on keeping on

But where are the mighty kauri trees? Not a single person has commented on their likeness to the proud and reliable characters. These people have a good head on their shoulders, and stay true to their roots!

It could be that they are too busy looking after all the people in their homes, or using their strength and height… lifting heavy things to high places? Or perhaps they’re just extra rare.

The perfect place to take shelter and move on in

Anyway, DOC wants to record people’s results to get some official quantitative scientific data to go with the qualitative research your comments have provided us with! If you used the chart last week, enter your result below. Otherwise, find out what New Zealand native species you are and then come back to tell us. Thanks!

Here’s a bit of fun for Conservation Week. Use the chart to find out what native species you most closely match. Click on the picture to make it bigger (or download it as a PDF, 360K).

So, you’re a…

Kauri

Kauri

You’re one of the world’s mightiest characters. You’re tall and strong and are respected by many. But with great power comes great responsibility, and you find that often you’re reassuring people that ‘My home is your home’ as you make room for another to settle in and take shelter. Because of your strength (if not physically then definitely your inner) you can persevere through tough times, and it is for this reason that people recognise your qualities and feel like they should protect you. With strong links to New Zealand culture, you take pride in your heritage and know a lot about what went on long before those around you arrived!

Tuatara

Tuatara

Sometimes it’s as if you’re from another time, holding a wise and quiet knowledge of the past’s secrets. You’re easily affected by weather and temperature extremes—when it’s warmer you’re more inclined to potter in the garage, discuss our chances in the World Cup, and can find it hard to listen properly to those around you. When it’s cold, you feel the need to call up friends and discuss small details in depth, go shopping or curl up on the couch and watch some trashy TV. Like Beyonce, you’re a survivor and you don’t let predatory people or tough times bring you down.

Morepork/ruru

Morepork/ruru

You’re a quiet sort, although you’re not afraid to speak up or call out when you’re in your element—which is any time after six in the evening. Definitely not a morning person, you focus best once the day winds down and the stars come out. With an unexplained connection to Maori traditions, you’ve almost got psychic traits. Often your musings on what could happen end up being right, and sometimes you could have eyes in the back of your head for all people under your watch know. But you are just looking out for them, somewhat of a guardian really.

Kea

Kea

Always sticking your nose into other people’s business, you can’t help wanting to know what’s going on around you. You’re just so intelligent that boredom comes easily and as soon as anything new or out of the ordinary comes along, you’re there. You can talk your way into or out of any situation and have no trouble twisting people around your little finger. A burning need to pull apart and know how new gizmos work means accidental breakages are an accepted part of your life. But with the gift of the gab, you manage to charm everyone and you’re known for your cheek and mischievous ways.

Southern right whale

Southern right whale

You work best on your own and enjoy spending time in your own company. In no rush, you move through life at your own pace—you know you’ll get there in the end. You tend to feel a bit panicky when you’re in unknown territory, so you like to know that home’s comforts are there at all times, and not straying too far from these brings you a firm sense of security. You spent a lot of time with your mother growing up, and as such you are (or will be) close with your own offspring. Despite not being overly social, your presence is inspiring and many find you quite breathtaking. For this reason you always seem to end up in front of the camera as people quickly try to snap a pose.

What am I?

I came out as a kea, which is quite accurate for me (as far as accuracy goes when comparing oneself to trees, reptiles, birds and whales!) Just like kea I am fun loving, adore gadgets, and have a ‘beak’ that works quite hard for me. I am told that kea can cause conflict and be annoying though, and I’d rather pretend I don’t share those traits!

If I could be any native species I think I’d be a fantail/pīwakawaka. Even though they’re fairly common I always feel a thrill when I see one—and who would choose to belong to an endangered species anyway? Fantails are adaptable, energetic and cute. And, of course, no one gets annoyed with fantails.

Anyway, make sure you leave a reply letting me know what you came out as, and whether you think it’s right.

I’m particularly interested to see if other native species represent as strongly in our replies as kea. I have a suspicion that kea are more likely to take the time to do this kind of quiz (and then post a response). What do you think? Can you kauri, tuatara, morepork/ruru and southern right whale personalities prove me wrong?