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Rat Sneaks In, kills 30-year-old Tuatara At Southland Museum

Jul 24, 2020
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The Invercargill City Council is ramping up its pest control efforts at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery after two incidents in recent weeks.

New measures include trapping in Queens Park in the immediate area surrounding the
museum and traps being installed throughout the museum facility, while further, more
extensive options are being explored.

Acting Group Manager Community Services Pete Thompson said staff were devastated to
discover a tuatara had been killed by a rat last week.

“Senior Living Species Officer Lindsay Hazley discovered the tuatara on Tuesday, July 14,
during regular maintenance of the Tuatarium,” Mr Thompson said.

The tuatara was one of the first breeding offspring at the museum, which hatched in 1989.
This was the first incident involving a predator in the Tuatarium’s 30-year history. The
Tuatarium was designed to be predator proof.

“Investigations revealed that the rat was likely to have gained access to the enclosure by
scaling a two-metre pvc pipe, and climbing through an air vent,” Mr Thompson said.
The tuarara were removed while steps were taken to re-proof the enclosure, and there was
no risk anticipated to other parts of the Tuatarium.

“We’ve taken all possible steps to make sure tuatara in the facility are safe once more.”
Unfortunately, a second incident occurred during the weekend, where a rat has caused
damage to parts of the museum collection.

Collections Manager Kimberley Stephenson said damage to the albatross diorama was
discovered during a daily inspection on Sunday, July 19.

“Minor damage was then discovered to a second specimen in the line fishing display nearby.
“We know the damage is likely to have occurred between 10am Saturday and 9.30am
Sunday because of our daily checks of the collection,” Ms Stephenson said.
Immediate steps were taken to identify and block off any obvious entry and exit points for the
pest, and within hours a live rat was caught and disposed of.
Further rat and mouse traps have been purchased and chemical-free pest control options
are being explored for the galleries near the Tuatarium.

Southland Museum and Art Gallery Trust Board Chair Toni Biddle said the board was pleased with the swift action taken by staff.

“Our iwi partners, the iwi komiti and Ngāti Koata were sad to hear of the loss, and were supportive of the steps we’ve taken thus far.”
“We know that the staff at the museum take the guardianship of the collection, and of the living taonga within the building incredibly seriously, and care for those items with a clear passion for their work.

“These incidents will be incredibly disappointing for them, and for our community, but we have been assured that all steps are being taken to prevent such incidents occurring again,” she said.

Mr Thompson said Council’s Parks and Recreation Team will now include the museum and its surrounds in its pest management programme, and baited traps and poison stations have been installed in parts of the museum where there has been evidence of rats and mice.

“We have been cautious with the use of poison, and this is only being used in areas where there is no risk to the tuatara. We’re aware there have been deaths in other parts of the country where insects have eaten poison, and those insects have then been eaten by tuatara.”
Iwi and the Department of Conservation have been notified of the Tuatara death.

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