15 adult males, 15 adult females and 14 juveniles released into predator-free sanctuary.
The Orokonui Ecosanctuary in Dunedin, New Zealand is the new home for 44 wild tuataras (Sphenodon punctatus) that were released there this week in an effort to restart the wild tuatara population on New Zealand's South Island. The 44 wild tuataras will join 15 captive-hatched tuataras already in the sanctuary.
According to a report in the Otago Daily Times, the population of tuataras now at the sanctuary has a good genetic mix to ensure a viable population in the future. Several adult females have been outfitted with transmitters so scientists can determine their location on the island as well as the temperature ranges in which they inhabit. The sex of the tuatara, according to Associate Prof. Alison Cree, head of the University of Otago's zoology department, is determined by the temperature of the surrounding area and the cooler temperatures would most likely mean more female tuataras present. The release of the 44 tuataras, according to the report, marked the largest release of tuataras ever taken. In their natural range, tuataras are only found in New Zealand. They have a lifespan that exceeds 100 years and reach sexual maturity in 10 to 20 years.
To watch a video of the release ceremony of the tuataras, click here.