Juvenile tuatara released back to 'wild'
“ If you go out in [ZEALANDIA] today, you`re sure of a big surprise “, because there are no juvenile tuatara in their former glass nursery. Six juvenile tuatara were judged to have grown big enough to cope in the wild. They were also judged to be healthy, so were moved into the wild to protect them from a fungal disease primarily affecting tuatara in captivity.
On Thursday 1st June, the wet, windy weather improved enough for a Juvenile Tuatara Release ceremony to be held that afternoon. At 1.55pm, ZEALANDIA staff, volunteers and members assembled. Also, there were representatives of those involved in the welfare of these tuatara, e.g., Victoria University and Wellington Zoo. Mana whenua Taranaki Whanui also assembled on the Heritage Lawn. Danielle Shanahan, Conservation Manager, briefed us about this ceremony. She also advised us about the lengthy walk up to The Turbine Track before the amusing address by Chief Executive Paul Atkins. Then there was a moving karakia (prayer) and a melodious waiata (song) by the mana whenua representatives.
After that, we set out with Danielle and a Wellington Zoo representative,…., carrying supermarket bags stacked high with two litre icecream containers. These were perforated for airholes and there was a surprisingly sizeable juvenile tuatara on a layer of kitchen paper towel in each container.
Once up at the sunny, sheltered spot left by a fallen pine tree, chosen people stepped forward, including long-term volunteer and electric boat skipper, Chris Gee. Each person gently introduced a juvenile tuatara to its new, manmade burrow. Youth Ambassador George, was one of those chosen, and he described the teenage tuatara he held as ` wiggly ‘and with soft spines. It was very moving to see these juvenile tuatara close up with their bright, beady eyes and vividly colourful markings.
We left them ‘to hang out ‘and ‘party hard ‘ like typical youngsters, opting ourselves for a sedate cuppa at the Visitor Centre to warm up. En route through sheer serendipity, I met an owner of one of the many donated benches! Kia ora/thank you all you kind donors.