Wētā monitoring trip

Listed: 18th April 2023

Southern Lakes Sanctuary staff Tom and Sam teamed up with invertebrate specialist Warren Chinn from Department of Conservation for a fascinating trip to help study and protect one of Aotearoa’s most poorly understood insects. Southern Lakes Sanctuary staff Tom and Sam teamed up with invertebrate specialist Warren Chinn from Department of Conservation for a fascinating trip to help study and protect one of Aotearoa’s most poorly understood insects.

The team spent three nights surveying in a remote area of Mt Aspiring National Park for the Nationally Endangered Southern Alps Giant Wētā (Deinacrida Pluvialis).

It was a cold Autumn trip with very little sunlight but the project site is outstandingly beautiful. We now understand more about the species distribution, behaviour and abundance here. The team also installed several “wētā motels”, hopefully when we come back after winter some of these will be occupied.

The Southern Alps giant wētā (Deinacrida pluvialis) is an endangered species of alpine insect that has rapidly vanished from much of its former distribution. These magnificent wētā punga are large, flightless, and will often forage on bitterly cold nights. Consequently, they are extremely vulnerable to introduced mammalian predators and several Southern Alps giant wētā populations appear to have been vanquished by mice, rats, and stoats. Fortunately, there is at least one location within the Southern Lakes Sanctuary project area where these chunky wētā punga are numerous. Southern Alps giant wētā experience almost perpetual darkness here and they live in habitats that are bombarded by rockfalls, avalanches, and giant pieces of glacier. These conditions are not very appealing to most predatory mammals, which may be why our giant insect friends have survived here!


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