Today Ngati Koata, kaitiaki of New Zealand’s largest tuatara population on Takapourewa / Stephens Island handed over 130 tuatara into the care of Karori Sanctuary.
Earlier this week Conservation scientists spent five days on remote Takapourewa in the Marlborough Sounds catching the tuatara. Then today the tuatara, with an entourage of carers, flew across Cook Strait by helicopter, and were welcomed with a powhiri to the Sanctuary. Since I do some volunteer work on the Sanctuary’s website I was invited to attend (along with many other volunteers and supporters of the Sanctuary).
It was a fairly short ceremony: the manuhiri (tuatara and escorts) assembled outside the gates of the Sanctuary and were called on by the tangata whenua. Once they had arrived, there were some short speeches, and the tuatara were blessed. There were some waiata, a few thank yous and a couple of very short speeches from representatives of the Sanctuary. That was followed by a cup of tea and the opportunity to get up close to three of the tuatara for photos.
The female tuatara was quite small, compared to the male on show at the other end of the marquee. Their skin was surprisingly soft, but it was easy to see that the claws are very sharp, as are their teeth, apparently.
According to the Sanctuary’s Tuatara Facts page:
Tuatara are the only living members of an ancient order of reptiles that evolved around 220 million years ago. These reptiles died out everywhere except in New Zealand.
Tuatara means “spiny back” in Maori.
Latin Name: Sphenodon punctatus
Only found in New Zealand.
Visit my gallery of photos from the powhiri.