Conservation of New Zealand’s rarest tree weta (Hemideina ricta)

Mike Bowie *1, Rachel van Heugten 2, Roddy Hale 1

1 Lincoln University, PO Box 84, Lincoln, 7647, NZ
2 Canterbury University, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8140, NZ

The Banks Peninsula tree weta (Hemideina ricta) is the rarest of the seven tree weta species in New Zealand and is restricted to the eastern part of Banks Peninsula. Habitat destruction and predation by introduced mammals are likely threats to this species. We worked with landowners to monitor weta using artificial refuges called weta motels.  Ten weta motels were placed at each site and left for at least 3-4 months before checking. Canterbury tree weta H. femorata and H. ricta distributions on eastern Banks Peninsula appear to be relatively unchanged from the 1990s, with H. ricta generally found at higher altitudes than the H. femorata.  Weta were quick to occupy weta motels – after nine days 10% of motels at Ellangowan Reserve were occupied by H. ricta and occupation increased to 28% after 44 days.  As many as seven weta were found in a single motel.  64% of motels with open canopy cover and low sub-canopy density contained H. ricta indicating that weta do not require dense bush. Landowner advocacy for weta conservation was achieved through the use of brochures and meetings.  

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