One hundred and thirty tuatara have been freed into the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in a continued effort to establish a mainland population.
A team of scientists spent five days on Stephens Island in the Marlborough Sounds last week catching the tuatara.
Conservation scientist Raewyn Empson said warm weather last week meant plenty of tuatara were out and about on the island and could be easily captured by hand.
Tuatara might appear docile, but they could deliver a nasty bite and they had sharp claws, she said.
With an estimated population of 50,000 tuatara on Stephens Island, plenty of the reptiles remained there. The new arrivals would triple the Wellington sanctuary’s population.
In December 2005, the sanctuary became home to 70 tuatara returning to mainland New Zealand for the first time in more than 200 years. Those animals are thriving and some are thought to have mated.
The new tuatara were also expected to do well. “There’s lots of food, and much less competition than on the island,” Ms Empson said.
After a welcome by members of the Ngati Koata iwi yesterday, the tuatara were freed deep in the sanctuary, away from prying eyes.