17 Oct 2016

Why tuatara are so unique

From Afternoons, 2:25 pm on 17 October 2016

New Zealand’s native reptile, the tuatara, is in an order of its own. While it's not a dinosaur, its ancestors do go back 230 million years.

And it is a conservation success story with a stable population.

Nicky Nelson from Victoria University's School of Biological Sciences specialises in the study of tuatara.

She joined Jesse Mulligan to talk about this fascinating relic from the dinosaur age.

Nicky says there’s around 100,000 in New Zealand and so the tuatara is off the endangered list.

“They are relics and only found in New Zealand so they’re still important just not rare and in need of urgent conservation.”

Conservation has saved the reptile and they are flourishing in areas where there is fence protection or rat eradication.

Almost everything predates this ancient reptile, but rats in particular are the reptile’s main enemy.  

There are four living orders of reptiles: crocodiles and alligators, turtles and tortoises, snakes and lizards in the third but tuatara are in their own order.

The populations are on offshore islands and protected places like Zealandia in Wellington, but there are none in the wild on the mainland.