Show time for north's new Tuatara

By Mike Dinsdale

Whangarei's newest residents - baby tuatara at Kiwi North - will be two of the most watched, and talked about, additions to the district ever when they go on public display today.

Tuatara may have been around a while - they are the only surviving members of a group that roamed the Earth with dinosaurs about 200 million years ago - but having two for all to see is causing a huge stir, Kiwi North manager Allie Fry-Kewene said.

The 21-month-old tuatara - who could live to be 100 - were unveiled at a gathering at the Kiwi North last night and judging by the reactions of those who saw the "ancient reptiles" in their new home, they will be a big hit with the public.

A naming competition for the tuatara - provisionally called Big and Little Toot until more appropriate names are found - will be held on More FM and Ms Fry-Kewene said as the sex of the tuatara won't be known for some time, any names should be unisex.

Kiwi North, as it is now known, at the Maunu museum grounds, has been working since 1990 to get tuatara to display, but it was only with the opening of the state-of-the-art kiwi house last year that the plan could be implemented.

The late Marge Maddren was largely responsible for setting up what was then known as the Whangarei Native Forest and Bird Society, which then established the first kiwi house at the museum grounds in 1990.

"She wanted to have tuatara as part of that, but because the building wasn't able to house them, we had to wait until we had a building able to provide the right environment so the new building has been the catalyst for us getting these two baby dragons now," Ms Fry-Kewene said.

Tuatara feed on insects - beetles, weta, worms, millipedes and spiders - and Kiwi North breeds its own supply to keep its occupants well fed.

- Northern Advocate

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