Tuatara becomes a father for the first time, aged 111

It's never too late.

Invercargill's famous 111-year-old tuatara Henry has become a father for the first time, with 11 offspring born since Friday.

Henry, who has been at Southland Museum and Art Gallery since 1970, mated with Mildred last March.

She laid 12 eggs in June, with 11 surviving.

Museum tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley told NZPA 10 babies had hatched and the 11th was half way out of its egg this morning.

It was great to see the babies, which ranged in size from wee to medium, hatch, he said.

"It's the completion of a love story."

They had had quite a slow hatching process and it was early days, but they all appeared to be doing well.

The babies did not need to eat immediately after being hatched and would be offered bugs in about 10 days' time, he said.

Tuatara parents did not play an active role in raising babies and were actually likely to eat anything that was small and moved, Mr Hazley said.

Henry had formerly been known for his aggression, was not interested in sex and had to be kept isolated from other tuatara.

However, he got his mojo back after a cancer growth was removed from his bottom.

He was now living with three female tuatara "in great harmony" and was expected to mate with Lucy this year, Mr Hazley said.

"He's had a major personality transplant."

Mr Hazley hoped to enter Henry into the breeding programme regularly.

"It adds a whole new genetic diversity into our breeding stock, which is going to be very useful."

He expressed relief about Henry "finally getting it together" after looking looking after him for so long.

"I thought I'd written him off there for about 20 years."

The museum is the home to more than 70 tuatara, whose ancestors go back 220 million years.

- NZPA

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