MORE than 70 tuatara have been flown the length of the South Island to their new home.
Seventy-three Takapourewa/Stephens Island tuatara were flown on an Air New Zealand charter flight from Invercargill’s Southland Museum & Art Gallery Tuatarium to the Marlborough Sounds, where they were added to wild populations at two reserves.
A wide range of organisations collaborated on the relocation.
Ngati Koata cultural manager Louisa Paul thanked all those involved.
“Ma pango ma whero ka oti te mahi co-operation the work can be completed.”
Seventeen tuatara remained at the Southland museum.
Department of Conservation (Doc) tuatara recovery group leader Lynn Adams thanked Southland for its dedicated care of the animals.
“Tuatara are held at a number of zoos and wildlife centres as insurance for the survival of the species, should there be a threat to wild tuatara populations.
“It also provides opportunities for people to see these unique, ancient reptiles and learn more about them.”
The tuatara being translocated were all bred by Invercargill City Council senior living species officer (tuatara) Lindsay Hazley, who had been in his role for 50 years.
He was excited they were able to return to their natural environment.
“In recent years, new partnerships with Ngati Koata and Ngai Tahu have been forged, which has meant that we are able to return these very special creatures to their ancestral home.
“It’s the absolute ultimate goal for anyone in my line of work see a species not only survive, but to thrive in captivity to a point where we are now able to release them back into the wild where they belong.”
The tuatara travelled in the cabin of flight NZ8952, cocooned in transportation tubes sized to fit each one.
Air New Zealand head of sustainability Lisa Daniell said the translocation was significant for the airline.
It had transported nearly 4000 threatened species and conservation dogs through its partnership with Doc.
“We’re delighted to have helped move this number of tuatara, and it’s been really positive to see so many different organisations and sectors working together on this dedicated flight, for the good of this incredible species.”