Southland Museum tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley visited the Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery in Alexandra yesterday with Gunther the tuatara, during a children's holiday session at the museum. Photo by Lynda van Kempen.
One visitor to the Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery
yesterday was around before the dinosaurs and another was on
the menu of feral cats.
Those were among the tidbits learned by more than 100
children who attended the school holiday programme at the
museum. The session focused on endangered species and the
children were able to touch a tuatara, Otago skinks and a
gecko. Southland Museum tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley
brought Gunther the tuatara from Invercargill for a visit and
the children were impressed to learn tuataras were around
before dinosaurs. Mr Hazley outlined the success of the
tuatara breeding programme and said he was now able to supply
zoos with the reptiles.
The Central Stories Museum in Alexandra is upgrading its
skink enclosure and expects to have at least two Otago skinks
back in residence by the end of this month. The display is a
joint venture with the Central Otago Ecological Trust, which
aims to boost the population of the critically threatened
''We're hoping to expand the display and move it out to the
retail area of the museum, so it will receive some natural
light, which will be beneficial for the skinks,'' museum
project manager Rachel Checketts said. Ecological trust
trustee Grant Norbury said the venture was good for both the
museum and the trust.
''It's a good collaboration for both. It lifts the profile of
these highly endangered species and diversifies the displays
at the museum.''
The trust set up a pest-free dryland sanctuary near Alexandra
several years ago and is gradually introducing fauna that has
been lost from the Alexandra basin, like the Otago skink.
Mr Norbury told the children that stoats, ferrets, weasels
and feral cats were among the main predators of skinks in the
''There's not many skinks left, because we've changed their
habitat by modifying the land, and because of the predators,
like feral cats. One piece of cat poo I examined contained 32
lizards - that's how many they eat,'' he said. The skink
breeding programme at the sanctuary was going well, apart
from a ''glitch'' when mice found their way through the
''predator-proof'' fencing, Mr Norbury said. Twelve skinks
had been released initially more than a year ago and a
further 16 were added late last year.
''After the mice found their way into the cage, the
population dropped by about four skinks.''
The mice had now been removed and the programme was back on
track. The trust hoped to raise funds to expand the .3ha
Central Stories has three more holiday sessions planned. Life
in Ancient Greece is the theme on Tuesday; Life in the
Victorian Era is set for next Thursday; and Life in Samurai
Warrior Japan is the theme on Tuesday, January 22. Each
session runs from 10am to 2.30pm and children must be
registered to attend.