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Invercargill tuatara on display again as new enclosure unveiled, named

The Southland App

Reporting by RNZ

07 June 2024, 4:16 AM

Invercargill tuatara on display again as new enclosure unveiled, namedSeventeen tuatara were held at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery until early 2023. Now they will be seen in public again. Photo: Supplied/Invercargill City Council

Invercargill's new tuatara enclosure will be unveiled and named at an official opening event on Friday (7 Jun), before a public open day between 10am-1pm on Saturday (8 Jun).


Seventeen tuatara were held at the city's old museum until early 2023, when they were shifted to make way for its demolition and rebuild.


The reptiles have now been given their own facility within the Queens Park Animal Reserve.



Invercargill City Council parks strategic advisor Chris Bowen said it was a big moment for the community.


"Tuatara are taonga species," he said.


"These are the species that are the oldest species, they pre-date and are found in fossils up to 180 million years ago," he said.



A public opening day on Saturday would be the first time the tuatara had been seen in public since they left the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, he said.


Last week, four baby tuatara were found alive and well at the museum demolition site.


The new enclosure can house 18 tuatara, meaning the council will need to look at other homing options for the newly discovered babies.


Bowen said the project team worked closely with the Tuatara Recovery Group involving iwi, DOC, species experts and other institutions to ensure the new enclosure was comfortable as it could be for the tuatara inside.


The new enclosure can house 18 tuatara. Photo: Supplied/Invercargill City Council


The facility replicated the natural environment of the tuatara and featured logs, water features, and artificial burrows to encourage natural behaviours such as climbing, basking, and digging. It had enhanced security measures to prevent escapes and protect the reptiles from potential threats.


Mana whenua representative Evelyn Cook, of Waihōpai Rūnaka, said she was thrilled to see the enclosure come together.


"It is such a privilege to have these tuatara, he taoka nō nēherā, a treasure from the past, here in our city and for them to now have their own dedicated facility is a true milestone for our role as mana tiaki."



The enclosure was designed by Christchurch-based firm Studio4 and built by Calder Stewart's Invercargill branch.


Studio4's Matt Sloper said the unique shape of the building referenced the spiny back of the tuatara.



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