Hihi volunteer needed

Date posted: 18-Oct-2018

Would you like to volunteer with the Island's hihi team and learn from them how ..

2019 Calendars now available

Date posted: 05-Sep-2018

The new 2019 calendars are now available and this year's is better than ever! Th..

Winners of kokako photo competition

Date posted: 02-Sep-2018

The stunning winning photographs from those submitted to the competition as part..

Kokako Celebration

Date posted: 21-Jul-2018


Kokako Photographic Competition

Date posted: 20-Jul-2018

KĊŒKAKO PHOTOGRAPHIC COMPETITION Celebrating 21 years on Tiritiri Matangi To ce..

New monitoring reports published

Date posted: 19-Jul-2018

Reports on monitoring studies carried out over the past year have now been poste..

2018 Concert coming up soon

Date posted: 15-Feb-2018

Our 2018 concert will feature an afternoon of light classics and jazz courtesy of the Auckland Ph..

Wetapunga talk coming soon

Date posted: 05-Feb-2018

For the Social on 19 March the speaker will be Ben Goodwin of Auckland Zoo, who will talk about t..

Rat caught and now takahe released from pens

Date posted: 28-Jan-2018

Thankfully DOC staff Andre de Graaf and Polly Hall and their assistants have trapped the rat whic..

Your Christmas Shopping for a Song

Date posted: 04-Dec-2017

Aka - The Grand Christmas Shopping Expedition to Tiritiri Matangi Island Shop Dreading..


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©