Mako and Tuatara

Mako and Tuatara is a traditional Māori story, retold by Lisa Reweti especially  for children. Hear it on Youtube:

Mako Tuatara and Lisa with Sunfish

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, in the depths of the ocean there lived two ENORMOUS creatures. One was a shark called Mako. He was bigger than the biggest megalodon. The other was a GINORMOUS lizard called Tuatara, who was even bigger than a brontosaurus!

They were the very best of friends. They did everything together. Their favourite thing to do was to eat. They loved eating! The more they ate the bigger they grew. The bigger they grew, the more they ate!

All of the other animals were starving.They moaned to Tangaroa, “Mako and Tuatara are eating everything!  There is no kai left for the rest of us! Can you please talk to them and sort something out?”

So Tangaroa, the guardian of the ocean, went and spoke to Mako and Tuatara.

“It is not sustainable to have both of you in the ocean,” he boomed. “There is not enough kai for everyone. One of you must go and live on land.”

Straight away Mako put up his fin.“I will go and live on land” he said. “I will be the very first forest dwelling, tree climbing shark.”

He showed Tangaroa and Tuatara what he would look like climbing a tree. He looked ridiculous.

“You look ridiculous,” said Tuatara. “I am a lizard. I have legs and I can walk. I’ll go and live on the land.”

“But I will never see you again!” wailed Mako.

“Perhaps I can find a way, where we can still talk to each other,” said Tuatara.

Mako and Tuatara said their farewells. It was very sad. They had an awkward hug. Then with a flick of his tail Mako turned and swam out into the deep sea.

Tuatara headed for the beach but when he came up and out of the water something magical happened. He began to shrink. He grew smaller and smaller and smaller, until he became the size that he is now.

Some people believe that Mako and Tuatara use the pūtātara to talk to one another……….but that is another story.


Retold by Lisa Reweti

Whanganui Regional Museum Programmes Presenter


King Penguin: a Royal Line in Trouble

New Zealand was once home to a gigantic species of penguin, as tall as an adult male human. Like many megafauna species of the planet, this species is now extinct and exists only as fossil remains held in museums.

Two other very large penguins, the Emperor penguin and the King penguin, live in huge colonies around the southern seas. They were so numerous that it appeared there was no risk of them following New Zealand’s fossil Giant penguin into extinction. This, however, may no longer be true of the King penguin. The once numerous bird may be already be an endangered species. The end of the current century, according to scientific research, might signal the end of this royal branch of penguins through the effects of climate change on ocean currents and sub-Antarctic habitats.

1. King penguin with egg

Taxidermied King penguin with egg. Ref: 1802.1688

King penguins live and breed between latitudes of 45 and 55 degrees south, on sub-Antarctic islands and northern parts of Antarctica. The most numerous colony, with about half of the global population of King penguins, has historically been the Crozet Islands in the Southern Indian Ocean. In 1982 the King penguin population of these islands was estimated, through aerial survey, to be around two million individuals. Recent analysis of satellite images taken over the last thirty-five years indicates that the population has plummeted by 90% to around 200,000 birds, with just 60,000 breeding pairs. While this is still a very large number, such a rapid decline is concerning. So what has changed?

Researchers suggest the causes may be overcrowding and the resultant competition for resources; disease such as avian cholera; or the possible arrival of invasive pest species. A non-migratory species, such as the King penguin, relies on the continued health of its sub-Antarctic habitat for survival. King penguins leave their young and swim south to forage for fish and squid along the polar front, where cold, deep water meets more temperate sea.

2. King penguin egg

King penguin egg. Ref: 1802.5822

The research team suspects that climate change could be contributing to the decline, as it has with colonies of penguins in parts of Antarctica. In 1997, a strong El Niño weather event warmed the southern Indian Ocean and temporarily pushed fish and squid, normally eaten by King penguins, further south, beyond their foraging range. The result was population decline for all King penguin colonies in that region. Although El Niño events are cyclical, they can be amplified by global warming. The researchers have concluded that based on current climate change predictions the Crozet Islands, once home to half the world’s population of King penguins will become uninhabitable for these penguins by the mid-century.

With nowhere else to go, the Crozet Islands population of King penguins will be in serious trouble. It would be such a shame if one of the world’s most iconic and loved penguins exists only as taxidermied specimens in natural history museums.


Margie Beautrais is the Educator at Whanganui Regional Museum.

Waka Hourua – Sailing into the Future

Polynesian Māori expertly traversed vast tracts of ocean to settle remote islands in the paradise of the Pacific centuries before Galileo and the rest of the world’s great astronomers, philosophers, geographers and explorers stopped believing the world was flat. How did they do this?

Waka hourua (double hull sailing canoes) are still being sailed today, using ancient knowledge passed down through the generations, and have been adapted over the years to what you now see in the prestigious America’s Cup Race. For your introduction to this most fascinating topic, lifestyle and sport watch Te Tēpu on Sunday 19th October 2014 at 9.30 pm on the Te Reo Channel, or you can also catch it on this link:

You may recognise our own Whanganui Regional Museum staff member Āwhina Twomey as one of the panel members being interviewed. Having only started traditional sailing in 2010, Āwhina iterates she is the voice of a novice and also provides a female perspective to this panel. She is privileged to be seated beside tohunga (experts) of the waka hourua society, Hekenukumai Puhipi (Busby), Hoturoa Kerr and Turanga Kerr.


You can book your class in now with Kaiwhakaako Āwhina Twomey (Māori Educator) to learn about waka hourua arrival in Aotearoa, return journeys and trading. Hear of her trials and tribulations whilst sailing aboard waka hourua from Hawai’i to San Francisco, and also from Rarotonga to Aotearoa.

Supported by stunning snapshots and snippets of a soon-to-be released documentary, you will see how the past fuses with the present, to take us into the future. Learn about and become part of the worldwide circumnavigation happening now!

Pressing Business

Proofing press

Some of the items we feature in From the Vaults are stored somewhere in the giant labyrinth beneath the museum, catalogued and carefully kept in temperature-controlled conditions until needed for display or research. Others are presented proudly behind glass, under lights or on models as part of a current or ongoing museum exhibition. Seldom do we find something that is in use, still doing the same job it was designed to do more than a century ago.
The museum is in possession of an ancient proofing press, once part of the Wanganui Chronicle plant and equipment, and now a working exhibit in the Whanganui Regional Museum tactile collection. When it was in daily use as a newspaper tool, printing staff would use it to print each page for proofing purposes, enabling a practised eye to be cast over the newsprint before going to press.
Museum educator, Margie Beautrais uses the machine as an educational tool at the museum. “We have the wooden poster type,” she says, “which is very old and very precious, and we feel really lucky to be allowed to use these with kids.”
The wooden type comes in many sizes and is stored in their original type drawers, also sourced from the Chronicle. Unfortunately, the museum does not possess a full complement of any particular font.
Included among the carved wooden letters is an array of logos and graphic art, once used in newspaper advertising. Margie has arranged all the letters in sizes so posters can be created with differing font styles of the same size. It works well and the posters look great.
“It’s all good learning for kids,” she says. “They find out that this stuff is called ‘furniture’ (wooden blocks used for line spacing) and these things are called ‘quoins’ (metal wedges) and they have to learn the writing goes backwards.”
Margie showed me some of the old Chronicle art she has used to create themed posters. There are ads and logos for long gone Wanganui companies, pictures of riverboats, Christmas art, the Wanganui District Council crest – all stamped in metal and glued to wooden blocks.
“Every child gets a tray, they get to choose a picture and they have to think of a word to go with it. It’s really good for supporting literacy,” she says. “I do a demo for them and they help me find the letters, working in pairs or by themselves.”
Margie holds up a mirror for the children to check their work before they move over to the press to ink it up and print a copy. The posters are then hung to dry and given to the school the following day.
When the proof press was given to the museum it went straight to the education programme, where it has been retained. “The value of it as an educational tool is high,” says Margie. “It’s not getting damaged. It’s fairly robust.”
To see it used as it was intended in a museum context is refreshing. “It’s old and it’s cool and it’s still being used,” she says. “I would love more schools to come and do this programme. It doesn’t get used as often as I would like. I’d like to run this programme every week.”
Teachers interested in any of the educational programmes on offer are urged to contact the Whanganui Regional Museum.

Original article appeared in the Wanganui Midweek on 2nd May 2 2012. Reproduced with permission from the publishers.