Tane and Joanna Tokona hold a captive tuatara at Orokonui
Ecosanctuary. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Joanna and Tane Tokona were not quite sure what to do
when they first spotted a wild tuatara that had escaped from
Waiting for their daughter to finish work in the nature
park's cafe, they were walking on a public track directly
outside the confines of the ecosanctuary, a couple of weeks
Mrs Tokona saw something moving in the grass beside the
track, and at first mistook it for a rat.
When the couple realised it was a tuatara, Mr Tokona's
instinct was to try to catch it.
He briefly made contact and it scuttled away; he was
concerned he might hurt the animal if he tried again.
The Karitane-based couple marked the spot on the track with
stones, and alerted the ecosanctuary.
Conservation manager Elton Smith caught the pregnant female
and returned her to safety.
Outside, she would not have survived long - Mrs Tokona had
seen a stoat just minutes before the tuatara.
Ecosanctuary general manager Chris Baillie said it was likely
the tuatara was swept through water gates that open in high
Tuatara can hold their breath for up to one hour.
It was also remotely possible it had scaled the
The tuatara was one of 87 introduced to the sanctuary in 2012
to form the southernmost wild population in more than a
The female had since laid her egg, as had many of the other
wild tuatara. None had hatched yet.
Mrs Baillie said the wild tuatara were rarely glimpsed by the
Visiting the ecosanctuary yesterday, the Tokonas handled a
tuatara for the first time, when they were introduced to one
of a captive pair.
The wild tuatara are tagged for identification, but are not