Tuatara taken to new home

Published on by AnshanJohn

Tuatara taken to new home

LYLE MCMAHON 

Last updated 05:00 26/03/2012
Lyle McMahon

Tuatara are released onto Motuihe Island in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland.

Tuatara are now living on the door-step of New Zealand's biggest city.

Sixty of the under-threat creatures have been released on Motuihe Island in the Hauraki Gulf, 30 minutes ferry ride from downtown Auckland.

It is only the tenth recorded tuatara release and is the closest the native New Zealand reptile has lived to an urban population.

The sixty tuatara were previously living on Northland's Lady Alice Island.

They were flown to Motuihe on board a helicopter, accompanied by representatives of Northland iwi Ngatiwai.

A special handing over ceremony was held when the reptiles arrived at the pest-free island yesterday afternoon.

"People can get a better experience of tuatara roaming free in the wild, right on Auckland's door-step," says Tuatara expert Dr Matt Baber.

"The Tuatara is one of the most ancient and unique species on the planet and it's also a national treasure and to have that creature released onto Motuihe, where it hasn't been present for several hundred years, I think it's just a major milestone."

Half of the 60 tuatara were released during the public viewing over the weekend but the rest will be freed at undisclosed locations on the island.

The reptiles can earn $50,000 on the European black market.

Of the tuatara attempted to be smuggled out of the country, Matt estimates five per cent will make it to their destination.

It cost $40,000 to relocate the creatures to Motuihe, all of that cost raised by the Motuihe Trust.

There is thought to be between 50,000 and 100,000 Tuatara living in the wild.

It's hoped that the 60 dropped at Motuihe will eventually grow to a population of 18,000 in a few hundred years.

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