is a unique New Zealand reptile and few people in the world ever get the opportunity to see one. The Aquarium has five tuatara on show.
Tuatara 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.
Tuatara 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 tuatara 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 Tuatara, 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.
Kiwi are flightless birds, found only in New Zealand. They have poor eyesight but exceptional hearing and smell. They are the only known birds with external nostrils at the end of their long beaks, used to probe the ground to sniff out food and alert them to dangers. They run extremely quickly, covering vast areas and navigating the most difficult terrain with ease. They have razor sharp claws, are strong and can be very territorial and bad tempered.
is nocturnal, digging and living in burrows during the day. The Aquarium has reversed day and night in the kiwi
enclosure so you can see kiwis foraging for bugs and insects. The habitat is as natural as possible with native plantings and leaf mulch collected regularly from the bush. The food within this enclosure is supplemented with ox heart, rolled oats and special kiwi
There are six different species of kiwi
: the Brown Kiwi – which has three known varieties, North Island, South Island and Stewart Island; the Little Spotted Kiwi and the Great Spotted Kiwi.
When kiwi mate, it is usually for life. The kiwi
has the largest egg to body/weight ratio in the world, with the mature egg averaging 20 percent of the female’s weight, weighing around 450grams. The egg is carried for two to three weeks before being laid, and during the last few days the female will wade in creeks to relieve the weight of the egg. She lays one or two enormous white eggs in late winter or spring, and leaves them for the male to incubate for three months. He takes full care of them, leaving the nest only briefly to feed.
Chicks do not have an egg tooth like other birds, so they must kick themselves out of their shell when they hatch. Chicks do not have down feathers like some other birds, but are covered with soft adult plumage. After 10-12 days the juvenile kiwi leave the burrow alone to hunt for food. They reach adult size in a year and start breeding at about two years of age.
came from the Westshore Wildlife Reserve. Napier has an international reputation for its success of hatching kiwi
in captivity. Because they are flightless, kiwis are easy prey for cats, feral pigs, rats, dogs, stoats and possums. These introduced predators, and the clearing of native vegetation, have resulted in the decline of kiwis, which are now an endangered species. About 95% of kiwi hatched in the wild are killed before they reach maturity. It is only through protection schemes, recovery programmes and raising public awareness that this unique bird will
Geckos have loose, velvety skin and are one of the most primitive family of lizards.
Skinks are smooth-scaled and shiny. They are masters of disguise, changing colour to blend with their habitat. Lizards eat living insects.
The Aquarium breeds locusts, (little grasshoppers), for the lizards which also feed on meal worms, house flies, honey, fruit puree and vitamins. They moult their skin as they grow. They will shed their tail when stressed or to distract an attacker but have the ability to regrow another tail. They cannot blink but lick their eyes with their tongues. New Zealand native lizards
are usually nocturnal but can often be found sunning themselves on rocks, darting quickly away when disturbed.