Breed reptiles in captivity: Tuatara

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    not assessed
  • Certainty
    not assessed
  • Harms
    not assessed

Study locations

Key messages

  • One study evaluated the effects of breeding tuatara in captivity. This study was in New Zealand.



  • Reproductive success (1 study): One replicated study in New Zealand reported that hatching success of eggs laid in captivity by tuatara was around 50%. The study also found that the first clutches were laid 2–8 years after tuatara were brought into captivity.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated study in 1990–2007 in artificial enclosures in North Island, New Zealand (Keall et al. 2010) reported that wild tuatara Sphenodon punctatus bred multiple times in captivity but that fewer than half of eggs hatched successfully. Over 16 years, 241 of 553 eggs (44%) laid by tuatara in captivity hatched successfully. Clutches were laid in 13 of 16 years by 15 of 22 females. The first clutches were laid 2–8 years after tuatara were brought into captivity. Hatching success and adult survival varied between tuatara taken from different islands (see original paper for details). Three captive-born females also produced three clutches during the study. In 1990–1992, four populations of tuatara were brought into captivity from four islands (6–15 individuals/island) to one of three captive facilities pending eradication of Pacific rats Rattus exulans. Tuatara were housed in predator-proof outdoor enclosures. In 1992–2007, eggs were moved to a separate facility for artificial incubation in dampened vermiculite (see original paper for details). Overall, four clutches were induced and 27 clutches were laid naturally. Hatchlings were returned to their source facility at one week–11 months old. Eggs that perished shortly after being laid (5–16 eggs in two clutches) and eggs laid by artificially-incubated females were excluded from results.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Sainsbury K.A., Morgan W.H., Watson M., Rotem G., Bouskila A., Smith R.K. & Sutherland W.J. (2021) Reptile Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions for reptiles. Conservation Evidence Series Synopsis. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Reptile Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Reptile Conservation
Reptile Conservation

Reptile Conservation - Published 2021

Reptile synopsis

What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 21

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape ProgrammeRed List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Mauritian Wildlife Supporting Conservation Leaders
Sustainability Dashboard National Biodiversity Network Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust