Your Christmas Shopping for a Song

Date posted: 04-Dec-2017

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

2018 Photo Comp opens for entries

Date posted: 27-Nov-2017

The 2018 Photo Competition is now open for entries. Click here (/2018-photo-competition-tiritiri-mat..

New reports on ruru nesting and Island conservation

Date posted: 02-Oct-2017

Two new reports have been added to the website. The first gives details of a summer students..

2018 calendars now available

Date posted: 27-Sep-2017

Our latest calendar, beautifully illustrated with images taken on the Island, is now available fo..

Guided walks for photographers

Date posted: 21-Jun-2017

For a wonderful day of wildlife photography please join us on Tiritiri Matangi Island for a Ph..

Ferry discounts for Supporters

Date posted: 18-May-2017

Tiritiri Matangi Island, the perfect winter's day trip. The birds are at their best, warm up w..

More kiwi for the Island

Date posted: 04-Apr-2017

In 1993 and 1995, sixteen little spotted kiwi were released on Tiritiri Matangi Island. The ma..

2017 Photo Competition

Date posted: 22-Mar-2017

It is that time of year again when we are looking for entries for our photo competition (and phot..

The 2017 concert

Date posted: 05-Feb-2017

This year's concert promises to be another wonderful and unique experience. Click here (/concert-..

Shorebird Film Festival at Devonport

Date posted: 26-Oct-2016

Click here (/miscellaneous documents/DevWaderFilms.jpg) for details of a forthcoming film festival c..


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©