Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus)
The Tuatara is a unique New Zealand reptile and few people in the world ever get the opportunity to see one. The Aquarium has five tuataras on show.
Tuataras look much like their ancestors that evolved 225 million years ago during the time of dinosaurs. It is the only living member of the Rhynchocephalia family and is now endangered.
Tuataras are mainly nocturnal, hiding in burrows during daylight. They take 10–12 years to reach maturity and can live for more than 50 years.
The Napier tuataras were hatched from eggs taken from the Stephen’s Island (top of South Island) lighthouse keeper’s garden in 1979. Napier has the longest living tuatara hatched in captivity and has a worldwide reputation for its programme of breeding tuatara in captivity. It is part of a national Tuatara Recovery Programme.
Soundproofed glass and special technology is used at the Aquarium to control the humidity, temperature, UV lighting in place of natural sun and conditions that mimic summer and winter, rain and other weather conditions. The Tuataras, fed mice, crickets, ox heart and vitamins, are weighed and measured regularly. The Aquarium is using a series of cameras in the enclosure to give visitors a better look at these rare reptiles.