Day 156 on the Road
The Southland Museum in Invercargill
Today we are checking out Tuatara at the Southland Museum! If you like this video, join our YouTube backpacker squad for more 365 Days: 365 Activities!
Update: The Southland Museum is not currently operating.
Today we are having an awesome day, we are going to the Southland Museum to check out the tuatara which is a three eyed lizard endemic to New Zealand plus you’ve asked for it. You wanted a punchier and shorter intro so here we go.
Today we’re starting with lunch in town and a Southland specialty.
So we are at Zookeeper right now and I’m trying my first Southland Cheese Roll which is an extremely complex recipe. Which involves rolling cheese in bread and getting Wyke upset by saying that. I think that’s pretty good. Mmm, cheesy.
Come on Southland, a piece of cheese rolled up in sliced bread, is that really a specialty? Anyway moving on, we’re gonna be going to the Southland Museum today. The Southland Museum is located in the centre of Invercargill and it’s surrounded by all these lovely gardens one of the gardens in fact is a petrified forest so all these fossilised tree trunks that have been found along the coast of Southland are put on display outside the museum.
And there are also heaps of sculptures right outside the museum. It really feels like the exhibitions are already starting and we’re not even inside the museum yet. In no time at all we’re heading into the Southland Museum where we’re gonna be meeting someone very special. His name is henry and he is the oldest tuatara in New Zealand. But that’s not Henry just yet this is lindsey and he is Henry’s handler. That was a mouthful.
So Lindsey is one of the leading experts in New Zealand in the lifecycle and the studies of tuatara. And tuatara are basically three eyed lizard. it sounds awesome right? We’ll get to that one very very soon but first and foremost tuatara are amazing at camouflage and Lindsey shows us some amazing examples. There are tuatara all around us in every single one of the enclosures and they actually really hard to spot.
What makes it even harder to spot the tuatara is the fact that they can stay as still statue which also means that they’re easy to film but Lindsay is telling us why they stay so still for the whole time and that’s because they are masters at conserving energy in fact to save on hunting they store fat in almost everywhere on their body including the little lumps on their backs and even their tails.
Tuatara are known in New Zealand as the living fossil or the living dinosaur and this is because they are a species that have survived from the dinosaur era. They were part of the spendontia family which have all been extinct now apart from the tuatara which shows how resourceful this species is.
The tuatara are extremely rare to find in the wild. They are actually fully extinct in New Zealand mainland which is North Island and South Island but they can be found on 32 different islands surrounding New Zealand.
So if your dream is to meet a living dinosaur there is still a way right here in New Zealand. But let’s talk about this third eye thing cos I was super curious about it so as soon as I got to handle a tuatara I asked Lindsey.
I can’t see the partial eye on this one. on the top on the top of the skin there is a we bump there on the tip of my finger. Usually it’s covered over in skin. But it does sense the photo…
Long story short, this third eye is not really an actual third eye. It’s a partial eye which has been reabsorbed as soon as they became adults and just help them see the shadow of birds that would be trying to hunt them.
You know what his name is? This one? No, what’s his name? Cat because he has a cataract in his eye. It’s so amazing that we get to get this close to a rare species of reptile in New Zealand. We are really getting a super close encounter with the tuatara and it’s amazing to hear all their facts it’s such a fascinating creature and it’s amazing that they’ve survived all these years and now it’s meal time and tuatara love their grubs. they usually have a diet of beetles weta, worms, but they are also known for eating seabird eggs as well as other lizards.
And that concludes our amazing encounter with the tuatara. But the Southland Museum has a lot more to offer so we’re gonna go check out the rest of the exhibitions right now.
As it is kind of mandatory for every single regional museum in the country the exhibition starts with a big section about the early settlers and move onto a section about world war one and one oft he most interesting parts of the museum is the marine wildlife section which fascinates Laura and I. In there we can find heaps of stuff related to the maritime world from the top of some lighthouse to the bones of massive whales that have washed onto the Southland shore. It’s a really awesome exhibition that showcase what Southland was made of. It was all about sailors coming to colonise the real bottom of New Zealand.
And Southland is the southernmost habitated area in the world and Invercargill is the southernmost city in the world so that makes it one of the starting points for any sub Antarctica exhibitions especially the world famous Roaring 40s. And this is why a huge section of the Southland Museum is dedicated to this really really wild place in the world. It has lost many sailors and has discovered many species.
Seal’s roaring at me.
Through interactive displays we are learning about the amazing landscapes and wildlife as stories of shipwrecks and castaways in the sub-Antarctic. I do wish you well out at sea. Thanks honey.
There’s even a moving ship here which is meant to be replica of the General Grant which is one of the ships that had shipwrecked in the sub-Antarctic islands. Throughout the rest of the museum there’s a lot more about the Sub-Antarctic wildlife and a lot of interesting displays and that really just concludes how awesome this museum is. It’s a great introduction to the Southland region and an awesome thing to do in Invercargill.
Our footsteps trigger a seal a which goes [seal roar] and then hides back behind the bushes again. it’s really funny but it’s quite scary when you’re not like when you don’t know it’s there it’s pretty scary.