Lack of UV light harming tuatara

Some New Zealand tuatara facilities have been inadvertently harming their endangered charges by enclosing them without sufficient light, new research shows.

Without full-spectrum lighting, tuatara can suffer nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism (NSHP), which causes bones to break and other painful conditions.

Ultraviolet (UV) light produces vitamin D, which helps the bones absorb calcium.

Research published by Massey University in the January issue of the New Zealand Veterinary Journal shows four of the 18 tuatara facilities examined in New Zealand (five overseas zoos keep tuatara) were using ineffective UV light sources and others were not supplying enough.

“The results of this study showed a significant proportion of tuatara in New Zealand are not provided with sufficient access to ultraviolet B light for the synthesis of vitamin D, which may acerbate the problems created by a poor diet,” the study said.

“Furthermore, a clear relationship was demonstrated between the availability of light and the historical risk of NSHP for animals kept indoors.”

It does not mention facilities by name or whether the problem had led to deaths.

Tuatara Recovery Group captive-management co-ordinator Barbara Blanchard, of Wellington, who helped with the study, said Christchurch’s Orana Wildlife Park had been the first to “pick up” the problem, which was then identified in a North Island facility.

All facilities had been told to ensure their tuatara had access to UV light equivalent “to what you see on a cloudy day in New Zealand”.

She said more research on the optimum UV light for tuatara was needed.

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Wikipedia tuatara

Baby Tuatara Hatches on Matiu/Somes Island

Thursday, 28 January 2010, 11:12 am
Press Release: Department of Conservation

A photograph taken of a baby tuatara on Wellington Harbour’s Matiu/Somes Island this month has confirmed for the first time that the rare reptiles are hatching on the island.

The juvenile, just a few months old and about 8cm long, was spotted by Harriot (8) and Nicholas Lane (10) and their cousin Harrison Vernon (11) while they were walking around the island with their grandparents Bob and Suzanne Vernon.

Tuatara were transferred to Matiu/Somes in 1998 and since then adult tuatara are regularly seen on the island. It has long been suspected that they are breeding, and this was finally proven when eggs were found on the island in 2007 and hatched at Victoria University.

But this is the first confirmation that young tuatara have hatched on the island itself.

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First tuatara nest found in 200 years

First tuatara nest found in 200 years – 01 Nov 2008 – NZ Herald: New Zealand and International environment and global warming news
An adult male tuatara at Karori Sanctuary and (inset) the clutch of eggs - the first nest found on mainland NZ for 200 years. Photos / Supplied

The first confirmed tuatara nest in over 200 years on mainland New Zealand has been discovered at the Karori Sanctuary in Wellington.

Sanctuary staff uncovered the four ping-pong-ball-sized leathery white eggs yesterday during routine maintenance work near the sanctuary’s mammal-proof fence.

Raewyn Empson said that about this time last year staff had found a gravid (egg-carrying) female.

The eggs would have been laid almost exactly a year ago in a shallow trench dug by the female and then backfilled.

“We knew of two suspected nests but didn’t want to disturb them to confirm whether or not they contained eggs.”

The nest had been uncovered by accident and was the first concrete proof that the sanctuary’s tuatara were breeding.

Ms Empson suggested there might be other nests in the sanctuary.

The eggs had been immediately covered up again to avoid disturbing their incubation.

Although only four eggs were unearthed, it was likely that there were more in the nest as an average clutch contained around 10 eggs.

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Dinosaur Descendant Reptile Loves Sex Again; Henry the Tuatara Becomes Dad at 111 Years of Age! : EcoWorldly

Henry the Tuatara, has suddenly regained his sexual vigor, and scientists in a New Zealand zoo are excited that he is becoming a dad, after nearly 40 boring years living a life of an eunuch. Science world is also excited with Henry’s newly acquired fame, largely because his family is ‘ancient’, even pre-dating evolution of the dinosaurs.

A large part of the excitement, however, is not that Henry seems to be racing against time but he is enjoying the company of three mates in his sunset years. He has lived long, though, with his species having a lifespan of about 70 years in the wild.

Tuatara resemble lizards, but are equally related to lizards and snakes, both of which are classified as Squamata, their closest living relatives, according to Wikipedia.Scientists find them quite fascinating and the tuatara are of great interest in the study of the evolution of lizards and snakes, and for the reconstruction of the appearance and habits of the earliest diapsids (the group that additionally includes birds and crocodiles).

Native only to New Zealand, they are believed to be descended from a creature that roamed the face of the earth during the age of dinosaurs around 200 million years ago. It hasn’t changed its form much in over 225 million years! The relatives of tuatara died out about 60 million years ago which is why the tuatara is sometimes called a ‘living fossil’.

But Henry had not been known to show any interest in sex during his 40 years in captivity despite the fact that tuataras reach sexual maturity between 15 and 20 years of age. It was only the recent removal of a cancerous growth from Henry’s genitals that seemingly reinvigorated his loins, according to officials at the New Zealand Zoo where he makes his home.

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130 tuatara find sanctuary
click on image for the video

larger lmage

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.

Island home planned for lizard species

Island home planned for lizard species and rescue bid for seagrass – 20 Aug 2007 – Pollution news – NZ Herald

Eight species of lizards are to be relocated to a local island as part of a plan designed to improve the health of Whangarei Harbour.

The plan, funded by Marsden Pt port owner Northport Ltd through a 10-year, $500,000 Whangarei Harbour Health Improvement fund, also includes work to restore beds of undersea grass.

Friends of Matakohe/Limestone Island Society intend to transfer eight lizard species to the island off suburban Onerahi in Whangarei Harbour.

Northport’s fund is granting $10,660 to cover first-year costs of the three-year lizard relocation project.

Planning for the relocation has been going on for about 10 years and involves sourcing lizards from mainland and island sites before quarantining and testing them for diseases.

The reptiles will then be moved to Matakohe/Limestone Island. more

Baby tuatara hatches – a first for Matiu/Somes Island

News | Victoria University of Wellington

It’s official—tuatara are breeding on Matiu/Somes Island in Wellington Harbour.

Proof comes in the form of a tiny baby tuatara which emerged last
week from an egg found on the island. It’s the first known offspring of
54 Brothers Island tuatara transferred to the island nine years ago.

there may even be a sibling to follow. The egg was one of two taken
from a buried nest on the island in May to be incubated at Victoria
University of Wellington’s School of Biological Sciences.

The Department of Conservation and tuatara experts from Victoria
University of Wellington had long suspected the island’s “robust and
healthy” tuatara were breeding. But because the reptiles lead such
secretive lives, and bury their tiny eggs in the ground, they had no
tangible evidence—until the chance discovery of eggs beside a track on
the island. full story

Karori Sanctuary, tour by torchlight

Spotting ‘little spots’ on Wellington’s wildest night out

Sanctuary Entry Gates

Wellington’s wildest night out just got even better! Throughout July and August, we are running a special two-for-one deal on our unique nocturnal tours. Conditions apply.

Take a tour by torchlight through New Zealand’s native forest at night. Your guide will help you to spot morepork, tuatara, glow-worms and weka. And if you hear a snuffling and a rustling in the bushes, it will probably be one of our rare little spotted kiwi – there are over 100 living wild in this magical valley! Tours depart nightly, with transport available to and from town for an extra $10pp.

Places are limited, so call 04 920 9213 to avoid disappointment!

Tour cost: $45 adult, $20 children (minimum age 12 years). 2-4-1 offer applies to PHONE BOOKINGS ONLY. more