Tuatara, New Zealand

I enjoyed reading the responses to my  Peace and Quiet  post about the Tuatara Lodge cafe in Invercargill, Southland. Those responses have prompted me to do this post about tuatara (the last photo in the Peace and Quiet post showed a tuatara painted on the outside of the building).

Steve Schwartzman (Texas, USA) commented “You won’t be surprised to hear that hardly anyone outside NZ has heard of that little animal.”

He provided a link to a photo he’d taken during a visit to NZ – with his permission I’m including it here. Taken by Steve Schwartzman at Zealandia Ecosanctuary in Wellington on February 21, 2015.

THIS is a tuatara!!  Click on the photo to enlarge


— from  New Zealand: When isn’t a “lizard” a lizard?  by Steve Schwartzman
— note: the coloured beads are for identification and they’re easily removed

Tuatara are commonly referred to as living fossils from the age of the dinosaurs. They are reptiles but not lizards, and they’re only found in NZ.

I’ve previously posted about tuatara, including photos taken in the Tuatarium at Southland Museum in Invercargill:  Into the Tuatarium  (note: the Southland Musuem has now closed due to earthquake risk – the tuatara can only be viewed from outside)

In another great comment, grandmother Ellen “Gem” (USA) told me about how much she and her young grandson Benjamin enjoyed learning about tuatara after reading Into the Tuatarium, to quote..

“It was perhaps a little more than a year ago when you featured a post about the Tuatara that captivated Benjamin. I remember it well because he became such a fan of this ancient creature and we enjoyed our researched findings about them. So much so, that I purchased a stuffed toy replica for him from a New Zealand store! It remains one of his favorites. “Tut” has been the star at several preschool show and tell events at two different schools. Benjamin is always so proud when sharing with others the, unknown to them, Tuatara…he even taught his teachers!”


concise introduction from Zealandia Ecosanctuary, Wellington
Tuatara: it’s a reptile, not a lizard!

extensive article from New Zealand Geographic
Tuatara – a survivor from the dinosaur age

video clip/talk – a keeper handling lots of different tuatara at Auckland Zoo
Zoo Tales – Truly unique tuatara

excellent article from San Diego Zoo
Tuatara – Living Fossils

Text by Liz from Exploring Colour (2019). Photo by Steve Schwartzman

23 thoughts on “Tuatara, New Zealand

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  1. Oh, Ms. Liz! Need I even say that Benjamin will be positively ecstatic when I show him this post on Wednesday?! He will love the photo from Steve Schwartzman. One of his teachers had told him that he and Tut are the “Ambassadors for the Tuatara” and he takes this responsibility quite seriously. Tut has a separate shelf in Benjamin’s room, “cause he is extra-special”…although Tut has on occasion been taken to bed with him when “Tut is lonely”. Thank-you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In the NZ Geographic article I gave a link to above, a person had been bitten by a tuatara (and they were outside in the cold at the time). It was 15 minutes before the tuatara released its grip! They’re generally slow, but can be fast for a very short time. They’re cute in a very ancient kind of way!


    1. When the SD zoo wrote their tuatara page that I gave a link for above, the tuatara weren’t on display. They were given 10 tuatara in 1995, so I wonder if things have changed since then and whether the public can see some of them now.


  2. Your blog is the first place I’d ever heard of these little chaps, Liz! It’s amazing how different the wildlife is around the world! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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