A unique Tuatara has hatched at Chester Zoo. It is a species believed to have pre-dated the dinosaurs, having been on the planet more than 225 million years.
This is also the first ever breeding of Tuatara outside of their native New Zealand!
The egg from which the youngster hatched was laid on April 11, 2015, and it hatched on December 5. The rare newcomer arrived weighing 4.21 grams.
Reptile experts at the zoo have described the hatching as an “amazing event” after dedicating several decades to the project.
Keeper Isolde McGeorge has taken care of the species at Chester Zoo since 1977. “Breeding Tuatara is an incredible achievement,” said Isolde. “They are notoriously difficult to breed and it’s probably fair to say that I know that better than most, as it has taken me 38 years to get here. It has taken lots of hard work, lots of stressful moments and lots of tweaking of the conditions in which we keep the animals along the way but it has all been very much worth it.”
“This animal has been on the planet for over a quarter of a billion years and to be the first zoo to ever breed them, outside of their homeland in New Zealand, is undoubtedly an amazing event. It’s one of the most momentous events for the reptile team at the zoo since we discovered Komodo dragons are capable of virgin births, in 2006,” Isolde continued.
The new arrival is the offspring of mother Mustard and father Pixie. A Māori Chief accompanied the duo, along with four other females, when they ceremoniously arrived in Chester from Wellington Zoo in 1994.
Isolde added, “When you’ve worked with Tuatara for as long as I have you come to realize that they don’t do anything in a hurry. Their metabolism is incredibly slow - they take only five breaths and just six to eight heartbeats per minute, and they only reproduce every four years, with their eggs taking a year to hatch.”
“We’ve waited a very, very long time --- 12 years with this particular pairing. The night before it hatched, I spotted two beads of sweat on the egg. I had a feeling something incredible was about to happen, so I raced in early the next day and there she was. Immediately I broke down in tears; I was completely overwhelmed by what we had achieved. Now that we have all of the key factors in place, the challenge is to repeat our success and to do it again and again.”