ENDEMIC. RESTRICTED RESIDENT
DISTRIBUTION: Sub fossil remains show that Tuatara were once evident on both main islands, but today they are confined to about 30 small islands off the North East Coast and in Cook Strait, and the Marlborough Sounds.
HABITAT: Tussock, scrubland and bush, mainly coastal.
BREEDING: Females lay a clutch of up to 8-15 eggs in a special ‘nest-burrow’ which is then filled in and abandoned. Having one of the longest incubation periods of any reptile, the eggs can take up to 15 months to hatch.
FOOD: Tuatara are opportunist feeders or ‘stand and wait’ carnivores, snatching at any small animal that comes into reach, including weta, spiders, skinks, geckos, and even birds and their eggs or chicks.
GENERAL: Grey and prehistoric-looking, although quite green when young, with baggy skin and spines down the back (tuatara meaning ‘spiny back’ in Maori). Females normally stop growing at the age of 20 and are about 18 cm snout to vent. Males continue to grow until about 50 years old and up to twice the size of the females. Tuatara can live to over 100 years and it is thought they may even live to between 200-300 years old.