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.
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.
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.
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
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