Rare giant wētā moved to breeding facility

Twelve rare giant wētā have been successfully relocated to the Ōtorohanga Kiwi House.

The Mahoenui giant wētā. Source: DOC

The Mahoenui giant wētā is one of the world's largest insects, measuring up to seven centimetres and weighing approximately 15-grams.

Found in only four North Island locations, they are classified as at risk but recovering, and face threats from introduced predators and fire.

They were taken from the Mahoenui Scientific Reserve near Te Kuiti.

"The wētā live in gorse, so we had a team in the reserve yesterday searching the prickly plants for good healthy adult specimens," DOC Senior Ranger Biodiversity Jon Sadler said.

"The wētā are taonga for Māori, so representatives from local hapū Mōkau ki Runga supported us on this project and worked alongside us on the collection.

"Members of Ngāti Hine and other local hapū hosted a pōwhiri at Ōtorohanga Kiwi House when we moved the insects there."

The wētā are now living in a purpose-built captive rearing facility.

The design is based on enclosures for captive rearing of the species at the Wellington Zoo, Butterfly Creek and Auckland Zoo.

Sadler said the work undertaken this week was the latest in a series of translocations of Mahoenui giant wētā aimed at rebuilding the population of the ancient insects, which were giant flightless crickets.

Ōtorohanga Kiwi House manager Jo Russell said the arrival of the wētā was an exciting development.

The wētā will be off display initially while further developments are made to the Ōtorohanga Kiwi House.

"The wētā will be in a laboratory-style setting, and our plan for the future is to implement modern technology to give the public a glimpse of these amazing creatures as part of a back of house tour," Russell said.