The wetapunga bred at Auckland Zoo come ashore at Tiritiri Matangi Island (left). A fully grown adult female wetapunga is ready for release. The wetapunga travelled in their own bamboo ‘apartments’, which were tied to marked trees in a carefully selected area, with good shelter and proximity to food.
In 2012 Auckland Zoo signed on to the Department of Conservation’s Threatened Weta Recovery Plan and established a wetapunga captive breeding programme. Because of predation from introduced species, wetapunga now only exist in one wild population on Hauturu-O-Toi/Little Barrier Island. Using just twelve adults taken from the island, Auckland Zoo hoped to breed significant numbers for release and to improve public advocacy by putting these spectacular insects on display. Our Changing World went with them to Hauturu-O-Toi/Little Barrier Island to collect the adult wetapunga. You can hear that story here.
Two years later, the offspring of that original twelve are now being released on some islands in the Hauraki Gulf. Staff from Auckland Zoo took 150 of them to Tiritiri Matangi Island last month and Justin Gregory joined Richard Gibson, Auckland Zoo’s curator of invertebrates.