Introducing Sphenodon punctatus

At the end of the day, the only thing you can do with some shows is laugh and try to say one good thing about the whole fiasco once you’ve gone home and unpacked. So it was with a Mother’s Day art event at the Dallas Zoo this last weekend, where the Czarina was showing her artwork. We’ve both had some bad shows, including both ones where the staff was at no fault of their own for the debacle and ones where everyone involved should have been hung by their big toes and used as Viking pinatas by the vendors and attendees. This one couldn’t have been improved upon if it had opened with the announcement “Hi! I’m Johnny Knoxville…”

Well, I’m one of those guys who can sit in a room full of horseflop and exclaim “There’s gotta be a pony in here somewhere!” In fact, at times, the Czarina accuses me of treading dung in a huge pit of it, occasionally feeling a pony as it emerges from the deep in its search for fresh toes to chew. That’s how I found myself in a momentary escape from the booth, sneaking out to hit the reptile house. Say hello to the tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus), one of the most unique reptiles on the planet today.

Tuatara at the Dallas Zoo

I won’t go into details on tuatara physiology, habits, or distribution, nor will I say anything other than that the Dallas Zoo deserves its reputation for being one of the most exciting venues for reptile care and captive breeding on the planet. In fact, the Dallas and Fort Worth Zoos have a very friendly rivalry involving results in captive breeding programs. That’s why the fact that the government of New Zealand was willing to allow a loan of two tuatara to the Dallas Zoo is such a singular honor. After the show season is over, it’s time to go back, with a much better camera than my phone and with a lot more time, and get more photos. Seeing the Zoo’s crocodile, Perentie, and Komodo monitors was enough of a thrill, but barring making that long-anticipated trip to Aotearoa to see tuatara in the wild (a very unlikely occurrence, as visits to the islands frequented by tuatara are strictly regulated by the New Zealand government), this was as close to fulfilling a dream I’ve had since I was three as I’m going to get.

One response to “Introducing Sphenodon punctatus

  1. Oh, how fantastic!! Kira and I love tuatara, and we enjoyed getting to see one when we went to the zoo last time — they are such fascinating animals! :)

    (BTW, Josh and I have memberships, and we can take a guest each, so if you guys would like to come sometime, we’d love to escort you!)