2020 Photo competition now open

Date posted: 15-Jan-2020

This year's photo competition is now open for entries. Please click here (/m..

AGM 2019

Date posted: 09-Sep-2019

Our Annual General Meeting was held at 7:30 pm on Monday 23rd September at the F..

More plaudits for Tiritiri Matangi

Date posted: 15-Jul-2019

Recognition of the wonderful experience visitors have when visiting the Island h..

Results of the 2019 Photo Competition

Date posted: 15-Jul-2019

The results of this year's competition have now been decided. Click here (/2019-photo-co..

Lighthouse Open Day

Date posted: 30-Apr-2019

Our historic lighthouse, signal station and diaphonic foghorn will all be on dis..

We need a new Treasurer

Date posted: 08-Apr-2019

The Supporters need a new treasurer to take over in September when Kevin Vaughan..

2019 Concert

Date posted: 05-Feb-2019

OrigiNZ, the tartan taonga are returning for the 2019 concert. Click..

Tiri's three unique foghorns

Date posted: 01-Feb-2019

Our next social event will take place on Monday 18th March when Carl Hayson and ..

Young Conservation Superstars win awards!

Date posted: 27-Jan-2019

Gabriel Barbosa and teacher Kate Asher, a team leader who co..

Entries for the 2019 photo competition

Date posted: 19-Jan-2019

We are now taking entries for the 2019 photographic competition. You can enter u..


Scientific name:

 Sphenodon punctatus



Conservation status:

 Protected Endemic

Mainland status:

 Extinct on mainland in wild

Size:  56cm, 600g (male), 45 cms, 350g (female)


 60-100+ Years


 Mating Jan–Mar, eggs laid Oct–Dec


 Beetles, weta, spiders, earthworms, seabird eggs & chicks

First introduced to Tiri:

 60 tuatara in October 2003

The Tuatara (Maori for 'peaks or spines on the back') is of special significance within New Zealand and internationally. This cold blooded reptile is totally different from all lizards, amphibians and other reptiles.


Once common throughout the lowland areas of New Zealand, the estimated 100,000 remaining Tuatara are now restricted to a few offshore islands where there are no introduced predators such as rats, cats, stoats and pigs.


Some of the ancient Tuatara’s unique features include:


  • Being the sole living member of a major group of reptiles, remaining virtually unchanged since dinosaur times 225 million years ago.
  • Being long-lived, 60 – 100 years or more
  • Having odd anatomical features including a pineal or third eye on the top of young Tuatara, which becomes covered over as they mature.
  • Having teeth that are solid projections of the jawbone; the bottom jaw fits perfectly between the two rows of 'teeth' on the top jaw.
  • Having unusual breeding characteristics, e.g. the determination of gender by the incubation temperature of the eggs (warmer produces males, cooler produces females).
  • Tuatara perform best at temperatures around 12 to 17 C, which is the lowest requirement for warmth in all the reptiles (average temperatures for reptiles  are 25-38 C). 
  • They live in underground burrows, rock crevices or even clumps of dense ferns and are found in forest areas which provide good supplies of beetles, weta, spiders, earthworms, millipedes and other invertebrates that comprise most of their diet. They associate with burrowing seabirds, sharing their burrows and even eating the birds' eggs and chicks.


Tuatara are slow breeders and although they mate between January and March, the 6–12 soft-shelled eggs are not laid for another 8–9  months, from October to December. The eggs are buried in the ground and take 11–16 months to hatch. Young tuatara are vulnerable - even their parents will eat them - so only a few mature, a process that takes 9–14 years. To help their survival chances the juveniles are active during the day, hiding at night when the adults emerge to feed. They grow for a further 15 or so years, reaching full size at between 25 and 35 years.


On 25 October 2003, 40 female and 20 male Tuatara were relocated on Tiritiri Matangi Island so that more people could see them in the wild. Since then, small individuals have been seen and a nest with hatching eggs was found in August 2009. 


Click on the link below to view NZ Herald newspaper articles regarding the release (pdf format)
NZ Herald Articles - Tuatara Release

Photography by Simon Fordham©