TODAY |

Tinder for tarantulas at Wellington Zoo

Wellington Zoo is undertaking an historic first – and it's a little bit creepy.

The breeding programme is the first in Australasia. Source: 1 NEWS

It's the first breeding programme of Goliath Bird Eater tarantula in Australasia, and the first globally since records started being kept 20 years ago.

Wellington Zoo says there are only 88 of these types of spiders officially kept on record around the globe.

The zoo has nine of them, and right now six – two males and four females – are ready for mating.

"It's an absolute game of luck having individuals cycle up at the same time and become compatible," says Dave Laux, Wellington Zoo's team leader of reptiles and invertebrates.

And if these things give you that creepy crawly feeling, Dave will try to put you at ease: "They've had a hard time from the media historically, but what I would say is that it's hype".

"These animals are calm, peaceful, they want to avoid human animal conflict at all costs. And the incidents of people being seriously harmed or seriously injured by animals of that ilk, they're negligible compared to road traffic accidents, people hurting people, dog bites."

There are complications that come with such breeding programmes, like when the female tries to bite the male.

"You've got all the challenges of regular spider breeding, aggressive females, disinterested males, and making sure everyone is adequately fed so no one becomes dinner rather than a partner."

If the breeding programme at Wellington Zoo is successful, the team hopes to see around 200 spiderlings. The number could be as high as 500 – but that depends on how many youngsters survive.

Wellington Zoo will be contacting other institutes around the world so the new spiders can be re-homed.