Is Henry the oldest playboy in the south?
By SIMON MCCARTHY - The Southland Times | Wednesday, 28 February 2007
Has Juliet found her Romeo in Invercargill's oldest and most determined bachelor? Henry, a 110-year-old tuatara, has been with the Southland Museum and Art Gallery since 1970 and has failed to breed so far.
Previous attempts have ended in disaster. One potential mate, Mildred, lost her tail twice when she became too friendly.
Other tuataras in the enclosure have flourished, with neighbour Albert having spawned 120 offspring during his time at the museum.
The museum has the best tuatara breeding record in the world, with Henry perhaps the only blemish, but staff have hope the dry spell might be about to end for Henry.
In a move that would make Hugh Hefner proud, the 110-year-old was given a 20-year-old playmate named Juliet.
Southland Museum and Art Gallery tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley has been with Henry since 1972 and during that time said he had shown no interest in mating and was generally grumpy and confrontational.
Also during that time there were several sightings of a growth coming out of Henry's rectum.
"Little was known about the biology of tuatara and rare animals, we didn't know anything was wrong," Mr Hazley said.
Tuatara, like many reptiles, procreate from their rectum. When the growth reappeared in 2001, it was removed and found to be cancerous.
"I can understand his not wanting to breed with a growth like that on his reproductive area. I mean, would you?" Mr Hazley said.
Henry had fully recuperated and had a new lease on life, he said.
Henry– in the twilight of his life – has started to show the first signs that he is preparing to mate.
He is hopping on a log, extending his neck and showing off to Juliet, and staff are hopeful it will end with the pitter-patter of little Henrys.
Tuataras mate during just two or three weeks between February and April. Don't expect to witness the act first-hand, though. "Tuataras are shy," Mr Hazley said.
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