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Home of the giant Wētāpunga

No longer found on the mainland and active mostly at night, most New Zealanders will never get a chance to see this weird and wonderful native species. But now you can at Butterfly Creek! The Wētāpunga was once found on the mainland throughout Auckland and Northland, however, due to massive habitat loss and predation it became restricted to Little Barrier Island. The team at Butterfly Creek, along with the Department of Conservation, have been doing their bit to help build up populations of this amazing insect.

In 2012 Butterfly Creek Wētāpunga staff then helped train Auckland Zoo staff so that they too could actively participate in securing a safe future for the Wētāpunga and have since educated other Zoos on best practices. Since Butterfly Creek started the Wētāpunga breeding program, a large number of the species have successfully been released onto Tiritiri Matangi and Motuora Islands – with other release locations planned for the near future.

Get up close with our mighty Wētāpunga

Come experience the amazing wētāpunga up-close at our free 1:30pm daily encounter held in Kiwi Forest. You will have a change to see this incredible native insect like you never have before and our keepers will be happy to answer any questions you may have! To see more of our Daily Encounters, click here.


Did you know…

  • The wētāpunga is the largest insect in New Zealand and can grow up to 100mm in size and weigh up to 35 grams – that’s heavier than the average sparrow!
  • Due to increased pressures of habitat loss and predators, the wētāpunga are presumed extinct on the mainland.
  • Wētāpunga actually have ears on their legs!
  • New Zealand has over 70 native species of wētā, including 11 species of giant wētā with the wētāpunga being the largest.
  • The name wētāpunga translates to the god of ugly things. However, we think these creatures are actually quite beautiful!

Championing Wētāpunga Conservation 

At Butterfly Creek, we believe in doing more than just ‘talking the talk’. With a passion for safeguarding endangered species, we established the captive rear and release program for the wētāpunga, (giant wētā), in 2009. This ground-breaking, privately financed initiative ensured that for the first time ever, this threatened species could be bred in captivity before being released into a select number of suitable habitats.

In 2012, Butterfly Creek expanded this initiative, and helped train Auckland Zoo staff so that they could also participate in securing a safe future for the wētāpunga. We have since educated other zoos on best practice. Since Butterfly Creek started the wētāpunga breeding programme, many of the species have successfully been released onto Tiritiri Matangi and Motuora Islands, and Tāwharanui and Shakespear Regional Parks.

Read more about Butterfly Creek’s conservation and sustainability activities

Wetapunga Conservation at Butterfly Creek
Butterfly Creek Wetapunga

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