New tuatara enclosure to be officially opened

Henry the tuatara. PHOTO: PETER DOWDEN
Henry the tuatara. PHOTO: PETER DOWDEN
Invercargill's much-anticipated new tuatara enclosure will be unveiled at an official opening event next month, followed by a public opening day celebration.

The opening events will mark the first time the tuatara have been seen by the public since they vacated their home in the Southland Museum and Art Gallery last year.

The tuatara enclosure will be officially opened at a private, formal event on June 7, when its new name will also be unveiled.

The next day, a public open day will be held from 10am-1pm. Billed as Henry’s Housewarming, the free event will feature children’s activities, kai and tuatara talks from the council’s living species officers. Henry is a 120-year-old-plus tuatara who lives in the enclosure.

Invercargill City Council parks and recreation manager Caroline Rain said the spectacular new facility was designed to cater to the specific needs of the tuatara, and offered everything essential for their wellbeing in what was a natural environment appropriate for the species.

"It provides visitors with an extraordinary opportunity to observe the tuatara up close, and while they may be hiding in their burrows for the cold winter months, hopefully they’ll pop out to say kia ora."

Located within the Queens Park Animal Reserve, the new facility can house up to 18 tuatara, and includes a hospital pen, working spaces for living species officers and large glass viewing windows for visitors to observe the tuatara in their daily routines.

The facility replicates the natural environment of the tuatara and features logs, water features and artificial burrows to encourage natural behaviours such as climbing, basking and digging.

Mana whenua representative Evelyn Cook, of Waihōpai Rūnaka, said the new facility was a positive demonstration of working in partnership.

The new enclosure is part of the council’s Project 1225, which also includes Te Unua Museum of Southland, set to open in 2026, and Te Pātaka Taoka Southern Regional Collections Storage Facility, completed in December 2023.