Story: Ngārara – reptiles



This giant reptile (37 centimetres from snout to vent) is believed to be the kawekaweau, a large reptile referred to in Māori tradition. The renowned ancestor Kahungunu was said to keep one in a wooden bowl, in order to frighten his enemies. This preserved reptile, being examined by taxidermist Wim Spiekman in 1990, is held at the National Museum, Wellington. Somehow this specimen languished in the natural history museum in Marseille, France, from 1869 to 1986, when researchers claimed that it might have originated in New Zealand. It was sent to New Zealand in 1990 as part of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: EP/1990/0968/4
Photograph by Ray Pigney

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Bradford Haami, 'Ngārara – reptiles - Guardians or enemies?', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 25 April 2024)

Story by Bradford Haami, published 24 Sep 2007