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Tuatara trekking back to Maungatautari

Zoo News - Posted 2 December 2014

Maungatautari Tuatara

A tuatara injured on Waikato’s Maungatautari Ecological Island in April is heading home after more than seven months of treatment at Hamilton Zoo.

The adult male tuatara was brought to the Hamilton Zoo Veterinary hospital on Anzac Day 2014, suffering from a serious wound to one of its eye. 

“We cannot be certain what caused the injury; it may have been from a sharp twig or branch,” says Hamilton Zoo Veterinarian Micah Jensen. “The eyeball was severely infected when the tuatara arrived, and required months of medication and hospital care before it showed any improvement.”

Early on in the tuatara’s treatment there was concern it might not regain any vision in the injured eye, but after several months of care the reptile showed great improvement and appears to be able to hunt and find food easily now.  Care and therapy was intensive, requiring multiple treatments of injected fluids, courses of antibiotics and topical eye treatment daily for several weeks. 

Hamilton Zoo’s Native and Exotic Fauna Team Leader Dean Jakings says the rehabilitation of the animal has been a great opportunity for keepers to actively assist with in situ conservation efforts of native species. 

“Having Maungatautari on our doorstep allows us to use our collective strengths to help grow the population of native species, some of which were classified as extinct on the mainland,” Mr Jakings says.

Treatment was a collaboration of expertise, with Zoo vets, Zoo keepers and veterinary eye specialist Peter Collinson also donating his time to help determine if the tuatara’s vision had recovered well enough for release.

The tuatara is leaving Hamilton Zoo bound for Maungatautari on Wednesday, December 3.  It’ll be accompanied by keepers Cheridan Mathers and Adrian Peterson who have worked closely with the animal throughout its rehabilitation.

Matt Cook, Maungatautari’s Natural Heritage Manager, says the support of Hamilton Zoo was welcomed in returning the tuatara to the ecological sanctuary.

“It was important for a sanctuary like Maungatautari to have experienced and capable vets and zoo staff close by to assist in conserving NZ’s endangered wildlife,” Mr Cook says. “The specialized service given by Hamilton Zoo cannot be under estimated and has been of huge significance to us for many years.”

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