Wednesday, January 28, 2009

11 @ 111

A rare reptile has become a father at the age of 111 for the first time. Henry, a New Zealand tuatara, confounded experts who believed he was past it when he succumbed to the charms of Mildred last year.

The female, who is estimated to be in her seventies, laid 12 eggs and yesterday, after 223 days of incubation, 11 baby tuatara successfully hatched.

Tuatara, which resemble lizards and can claim a lineage dating back 220 million years, are estimated to number 50,000, with most living in predator-free sanctuaries or on New Zealand’s offshore islands.

When the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, in the town of Invercargill, became his home in 1970, Henry was already aged at least 70. He proved to be “a grumpy old man”, and was kept in solitary confinement because of his aggressive behaviour. When staff first tried to persuade him to mate with Mildred 25 years ago, he bit off her tail. But last year his keepers found a cancerous tumour beneath his genitals and when the tumour was removed his libido was restored.

The offspring are being looked after away from their parents because adult tuataras sometimes eat their young. Tuataras reach sexual maturity at 20 and can live to between 150 and 250 years, which gives Henry plenty of opportunity to make up for lost time. He is expected to mate with Lucy, one of three females he currently lives with, in the spring.
Kathy Marks in The Independent


Blogger Jill Jones said...

Hi Mark,
I've actually seen old Henry in Invercargill - a couple of years ago. He seemed quite curious about visitors (ie. us), and pretty hale and hearty. And the journalist you quote, Kathy Marks, is a friend of mine. For what any of that is worth. Cheers, Jill

4:43 PM  
Blogger EILEEN said...


until I
disappeared in tears

5:00 PM  

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