A baby tuatara was captured on camera hatching from its egg during filming for The Secret Life of the Zoo.
The stunning footage - said to be incredibly rare - features the tiny lizard-like creature breaking out of its shell at Chester Zoo.
“It’s incredibly unique and a real privilege to be able to witness something so rare,” said reptile keeper Isolde McGeorge.
The tuatara, endemic to New Zealand, is an ancient reptile that has been about for more than 225 million years.
They lived before the dinosaurs and have survived almost unchanged to the present day as a ‘living fossil and an evolutionary wonder’.
Last year, reptile experts at Chester Zoo became the first in the world to successfully breed the rare animal outside its native country.
Now six more have hatched at the zoo leading keepers to believe that they have found the ‘winning formula’ when it comes to breeding.
Only a handful of zoos worldwide work with the species and the new arrivals are a huge boost to the global population of the reptiles.
Isolde said: “It took nearly 40 years of research and dedication to achieve the very first breeding of a tuatara outside their homeland in New Zealand last year.
“Now, after waiting all that time for the first to successfully hatch, six more have come along.”
The tuatara takes more than 20 years to reach sexual maturity and only reproduces every four years.
“Hatching these remarkable animals is real testament to the skill and expertise of the herpetology team at the zoo.
“Hopefully this means we’ve found the winning formula in terms of breeding the species, which has been a mystery to science for so long.”
Tuatara are found wild only in New Zealand and are the last surviving species of its group, commonly known as beak heads or Rhynchocephalia.
Around 70 million years ago the species became extinct in Europe, Asia, North and South America and Africa.
To this day, conservationists aren’t sure how and why they were wiped out.
Since then tuatara have only survived in New Zealand where the animal is steeped in Māori culture and is highly revered.
The islands on which they live are now protected and very few people are granted permission to visit them.
“Breeding the species is an amazing event and almost as special is the fact we’ve now caught a tuatara hatching on film for the first time,” Isolde said.
“It’s very, very special footage - footage which has barely ever been recorded before, certainly not in this level of detail.
“We will be able to learn more and more about these amazing animals from this footage. It’s incredibly unique and a real privilege to be able to witness something so rare.”
The ground-breaking footage was captured during filming for series three of The Secret Life of the Zoo, which starts at 8pm on Tuesday, February 28, on Channel 4.