Category Archives: Tuatara

Picton

The view from our AirBnB in Picton.

It was a beautiful morning when we woke up in Picton. The aspect out of the windows at our digs was divine, with wooded hills, serene water, and picturesque boats. My husband had outdone himself with picking our lodgings during the trip. The plan was to do some light sightseeing and then check out EcoWorld and Aquarium.

The ANZAC Memorial at Picton.
Getting our ducks in a row.

Picton is a pleasant town, with a lovely waterfront. The park has quite the collection of wildlife: seagulls and ducks. Ducks are charming creatures, because they are always hopeful of a free meal. They ask, politely. Seagulls demand!

One of the Tuatara at EcoWorld and Aquarium.

I was delighted to discover that EcoWorld had several tuataras on display. My cup runneth over, seeing more of these delightful animals.

The May/December romance.

In one of the aviaries there were a couple of the biggest, fattest rabbit brothers I’d ever seen, but – as a Queenslander – I have to admit to seeing very few pet rabbits. Rabbits are banned in Queensland, as pets, and we have a rabbit-proof fence to keep them out of the state. In the same aviary was a couple of indigenous small parrots. One was an elderly male, and he had been provided with a much younger mate. She flew around the cage with gusto, managing to scare the bunnies. He never moved the entire time we watched him; staring into the abyss (their food bowl). Outside the building were more aviaries containing more of the same species of parrot. They had no penguins – they only have those when they are ill or injured.

The most friendly inhabitant of the aquarium.

The aquarium was tiny, particularly compared to the Seaworld or the SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast aquariums. However, it did have several rockpool exhibits and a two larger tanks. The tragedy here is that all the inhabitants of the aquarium are under threat. The Picton council wants to take over the building containing EcoWorld and the Aquarium (it’s also the local cinema). If that happens, the land animals can be rehoused, but the water life cannot. They will have to be put down. They have a petition to try and save the business, and the owners of the business is running for council.

Lower Buller Gorge

The plan had been to avoid the upper reached of the Northwest of the South Island, but the highway we had planned to take was no longer viable due to flood damage. This meant a longer drive as we detoured through Nelson and took the coastal road to our next destination – Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks. We saw some lovely scenery on the way, but the detour meant we drove into town in the dusk, not late afternoon as planned. This meant we had less opportunity for sightseeing. We were both tired after the drive, and we were pleased that our lodgings were excellent, right near the beach. We could hear the waves breaking as we drifted off to dreamland.

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Filed under Adventures, New Zealand, Personal experience, Picton, Tuatara

Falling In Love With Zealandia

A Tuatara in Zealandia

I wasn’t expecting to be as delighted with Zealandia as I was, as I hadn’t really heard of it until we got to New Zealand. My bad. Zealandia is the previous town dam that has been converted into a conservation area, with high fences and the removal of nonindigenous species. They have also added a colony of tuatara to improve the chances of the species survival.

Now, I’ve always had a soft spot for tuatara, which look like a lizard but are actually in their own distinct Order. The animals have a third eye, which is covered in skin and scales, but does have a lens and retina and rods. I never thought I would see one on our trip, as they as close to extinction and found mainly on islands that don’t support a population of nonindigenous predators like cats and weasels. I saw them here and in Picton! In Zealandia, I saw them in their natural habitat, sunning themselves, as craggy and spiny as in any photos I’ve seen of them. I was as excited as a three year old at a party.

Still suffering from winter torpor. Or posing for photos.

The only weta we saw was crushed and dead; a female with an egg shooter. She might have been attacked by a bird, or stepped on unknowingly by a hiker. She was a big girl – I’ve only seen stick insects that were larger than her.

Then there were the birds. My favourites were the Kākās, a type of temperate parrot like the Keas and the flightless Kākāpōs (New Zealand really favour names starting in K for parrots). Kākās are brown and resemble corellas. At one of their feeding stations, a single kākā flew close enough that I felt its wing brush my cheek. They aren’t tame, just fearless.

At the feeding station.
A better view of a Kākā’s plumage.

As well, we saw several colonies of shags – which were attacked by an eagle. There were three species of shags. They panicked as they were strafed from the air. This is why so many New Zealand bird are plain, they are camouflaged from predators that attack from the sky. There was a supersized eagle that went extinct when the moa went extinct.

Speaking of moas, we were shown vegetation that changes shape as it grows, due to evolving to avoid being eaten by the moa. While a juvenile, it is spiky to discourage grazing by the herbivorous moa. Once it grows above the head height of a moa, the leaves revert to their adult form. With moas extinct, will this species eventually lose this adaptation? The moas were the equivalent of our Australian kangaroos or European deer – their loss is still impacting the overall ecology of New Zealand.

Spiky for a reason.

The bush reminded me of Binna Burra, but with more fern trees and moa food plants. Many more birds but no ground mammals. The only indigenous mammals – before the advent of man – were bats; tiny bats, not flying foxes. We saw many local species of birds, and a gecko, and even saw evidence of the kiwi population.

The footprint of a kiwi

After spending hours at Zealandia, we took the shuttle bus to the Cable Car Museum, and then rode the cable car back to the city. it had been a cloudy, drizzly day, but who noticed the weather when adventuring? We walked through the city, and had a late lunch, before heading back to our hotel. I slept like a log that night.

View from the Cable Car.

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Filed under Adventures, Kākā, New Zealand, Personal experience, Tuatara, Wellington, Zealandia