Tiritiri Matangi, New Zealand – A recent survey shows that 20 years on from the reintroduction of tuatara to Tiritiri Matangi the population is thriving. The 2003 translocation moved 60 Northern tuatara from Middle Island (in the Mercury Islands off Coromandel Peninsula) to Tiritiri Matangi Island.
A survey team, led by Dr Graham Ussher from RMA Ecology Ltd and the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi Inc, with the support of Louis Vavasour, CEO of Booster Wine Group, captured and tagged a total of 76 unique tuatara, another three untagged tuatara were also sighted for an overall total of 79 individuals. Of the 76 tagged tuatara 10 were founding tuatara that were brought to Tiritiri Matangi in 2003. These numbers indicate strong population growth and a significant increase in numbers for this rare and long-lived species.
The largest of these spiny-backed reptiles measured in at 1,100g and was 642mm snout to tail tip, while the smallest weighed 80g and measured 295mm snout to tail tip, both being island-born.
Prior to the initial relocation, New Zealand’s most ancient reptile had not been seen on Tiritiri Matangi since 1902.
Dr Graham Ussher explained the importance of the findings;
“The survey results provide valuable insights into the status of the tuatara population on Tiritiri Matangi, suggesting a stable population that has a diverse genetic base and which has been breeding consistently since their reintroduction. The size range of tuatara caught also highlights the healthy status of the population. Individual animals were plump, fit and healthy, emphasising the abundant insect foods that the island supports after 40 years of active restoration by the public conservation group Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi Incorporated, volunteers and DOC. The data collected will be used to inform ongoing conservation efforts.”
“The survey’s success is a testament to the ongoing efforts of the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi and the Tuatara Conservation Project team, who have been working tirelessly to restore the tuatara population on the island. With the support of partners Spinyback Wines, the project is making real progress in preserving this living link to New Zealand’s prehistoric past.”
Louis Vavasour, CEO of Booster Wine Group, whose Spinyback range of wines is named in honour of New Zealand’s tuatara (‘spiny back’ in Maori), added;
“We are thrilled to have been able to support this important survey and to see
such encouraging results. The tuatara is a unique and iconic species that is part of
New Zealand’s natural heritage, and we are committed to doing our part to help protect and conserve it. With our Spinyback brand named after the tuatara, contributing a portion of all of the sales to our tuatara conservation fund is the least we can do. We’re committed to supporting tuatara conservation initiatives around New Zealand, this is just a start.”
For more information on the Tiritiri Matangi Tuatara Conservation Project please visit
www.tiritirimatangi.org.nz and for Booster Wine Group’s Spinyback wines, visit