Our bearded dragon has a name – Tūmanako. Suggested by staff member Trude Cameron, Tūmanako is ‘hope’ in te reo, and is a name fitting for a reptile who arrived with us at Te Puna Kararehe just after the last lockdown.
The bearded dragon is a reptile that has a “beard” of spikes under its chin that puffs up depending on its mood. They’re among the most popular pet reptiles, as they tend to be gentle, inquisitive, and active during the day.
Tūmanako was a little skittish when she first came to us, which is understandable according to Environmental & Animal Sciences senior technician Stacey Middleditch. She’d had a big move from her old home at a pet store, and over the lockdown she would have had only had exposure to a few people looking after her.
“Reptiles aren’t thought to have the broad range of feelings that mammals have but I think they get to know their carers, and recognise them, likely by smell and they trust them,” says Stacey. “So being in a new place with no familiar sounds and smells would have been disconcerting for her.”
Stacey’s happy to report that Tūmanako is now a happy sociable girl and very nosey! “She’s frequently caught with her nose up to the glass of her vivarium watching the goings-on, especially if it’s something out of the ordinary.”
Stacey also says that she’s getting easy to handle, happily sitting on a hand or, preferably, a shoulder so she can watch what’s going on. She’s around eight months old and Stacey says they’re 85% sure she’s female at this point, but it’s not exact until she reaches sexual maturity which can be between 10-18 months old.
“She loves her insects,” says Stacey, “but, like most teenagers, isn’t so fond of her vegies but we still offer them daily and she’s taking a liking to kale which is great -- now to get her to eat her other greens!”
Bearded dragons are becoming popular pets and all students on our animal care and vet nursing courses will have more encounters with this very friendly breed of reptiles. “Her friendliness and outgoing personality is fantastic for teaching students about husbandry, enrichment, diet, handling and health checks,” says Stacey.
“Tūmanako is the perfect name for her, as she was and still is a representation of the hope we all need going forward, and her symbolism as a new start was very apt,” says Stacey. “Even with the current situation, she’s still a symbol of hope as she will be waiting for the students when they get back, as well as the staff who like to visit.