Henry the reptile to become a father at 111

Sunday 23 October 2011 04:58

An indigenous New Zealand reptile regarded as one of the last living descendants of the dinosaurs will become a father for the first time in decades at the age of 111, officials said today.

Henry the Tuatara and his mate Mildred, aged between 70 and 80, produced 12 eggs in mid-July after mating earlier this year at the Southland Museum on New Zealand's South Island, Tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley said.

Tuatara are the lizard-like last descendants of a species of reptile that walked the earth with the dinosaurs 225 million years ago, zoologists say.

Henry has lived at the Southland Museum's special enclosure for Tuatara since 1970 and had shown no interest in sex until he recently had a cancerous growth removed from his genitals. He is now enjoying the company of three females and might breed again next March, Hazley said.

"With these guys, foreplay might take years. One has to be patient," he said.

Hazley said while Henry had never before mated in captivity, it is unknown whether he had ever done so in the wild. The male Tuatara reaches sexual maturity at age 20.

The population of Tuatara in New Zealand is estimated at about 50,000.

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