That little guy above is one of the world's most unique creatures- a tuatara. Not a lizard, nor a surviving dinosaur, that reptile is in a class of its own that predates dinosaurs, and incredibly still survives today. New Zealand separated from the ancient Gondwana land mass long before it broke up and all the jig saw pieces moved around, eventually billions of years later to create the continental layout we see on our world map today.
Tuatara bear their young in eggs with a flexible outer covering rather than a hard shell. Thought to live for around a hundred years, the one pictured is a juvenile male. Fully grown he'll
mature to about 60cm length.
Holding one in my hands recently was a special occasion at Nga Manu Nature Reserve. He was still very placid, having come from a cool dark cage, but as he soaked up the sun, he became more lively and I had to hand him back to Reece, Nga Manu's Ranger, as they will bite when active. In the meantime, my mind raced, thinking of dinosaurs and Jurassic Park.
Thank goodness this is our largest remaining reptile of those times!
Nga Manu Nature Reserve is located at-
281 Ngarara Road , Waikanae, Kapiti Coast, New Zealand.
Open every day (except Christmas Day.) 10am- 5pm.