DOC, Greenfingers and Butterfly Creek celebrated the lead up to Conservation Week with the opening of the Bugs About display of weta punga at Butterfly Creek, Mangere, Auckland.
Just look at these beautiful giants of the insect world! Associate Minister for Conservation Kate Wilkinson and bug man Ruud Kleinpaste were amongst the invertebrate enthusiasts who admired the weta punga which keeper Paul Barrett encouraged all to get up close and personal with.
The opening of this exhibit was the culmination of five years of work by a large number of people who ‘got involved’ to create a more positive outcome for this ‘Nationally Endangered’ species.
Some time ago a recovery plan was written for threatened weta which advocated several new populations of weta punga be established on Hauraki Gulf islands from the Hauturu (Little Barrier) population.
DOC entomologist Chris Green has been monitoring the weta punga populations on Hauturu since the kiore eradication in 2004, and after four surveys decided it was too risky to remove the 50 that would be needed to establish another population. “It seemed that a captive breeding programme would be the appropriate way to develop populations on other islands,” said Chris.
General Manager of Butterfly Creek John Dowsett approached DOC keen to display these amazing insects. His staff member Paul Barrett is NZ’s most experience weta breeder, having reared Middle Mercury Island Tusked weta for release on other Mercury group islands.
During this time island community restoration groups were also requesting weta punga. The Motuora Restoration Society has an emphasis on restoring the ‘smaller fauna’ and member Robin Gardner-Gee prepared a translocation proposal which Chris added to, and included Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi Island as well.
Now approved, the proposal permits a small number of weta punga to be removed from Hauturu, reared and bred in captivity and their off-spring released in batches of 50 onto Tiritiri and Motuora.
Developing the captive breeding programme while also bringing these beautiful creatures to the public has been a win-win project drawing on the skills, co-operation and enthusiasm of government, non-government, volunteer, eco-tourism and business sector agencies.