The tumor on his genitals had made Henry into an old grouch. At his new home in the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, he was aggressive and unpopular with the ladies. Sure, Henry was already in his 70s—but in tuatara years, he was still in his prime.
Tuataras, a lizard-like reptile belonging to an ancient lineage that has changed little since the time of the dinosaurs, are known for their longevity. They don’t reach sexual maturity until age 20 and many have been known to live past 100.
Henry’s fortunes reversed in 2002, when at the age of 105, he underwent an operation to remove his inconvenient (and cancerous) tumor. Since then, his human caretakers say he has regained a vigor that belies his age. Whereas before the operation, Henry was often kept in solitary confinement due to his foul temper, now he is kept in the company of three female tauturas. Even so, museum keepers were surprised when Henry recently became a father at the age of 111, after a romantic romp with an 80-year-old female named Mildred.
Henry and Mildred’s 11 offspring hatched today, adding a welcome boost to the 72 tautaras kept at the museum.
Taurtaras are an endangered species, and the estimated 50,000 left in the world are found mostly in protected areas in New Zealand. Henry’s keepers are hopeful that he will continue to be an active member of the museum’s breeding program. Now if only Henry would give some tips to Lonesome George….
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Image: Wikimedia Commons / KeresH