Moeo Finaunga (Massey University Albany, Ecology group) discovered an adult sized Wētāpunga on Motuora Island last week. Moeo spotted the large insect (7-8 cm body length) on a Manuka tree approx. 40 cm off the ground while carrying out a gecko night survey with her fellow Wildlife Management students. Mac Purvin, who witnessed the find, took photographic proof and helped to confirm the species and age of the animal.
Juvenile Wētāpunga were released on Motuora in September 2010 and December 2012 about 300 metres southwest of the gecko hunt site and have not been re-sighted since. According to Dr Chris Green from the Department of Conservation all individuals released three years ago were expected to have died by now, while those from last year should still be juveniles. However, this animal was too large to be a juvenile and could in fact be one of the originally released weta. Even though no geckos were spotted that night, this was a remarkable find and caused much excitement among the Island rangers and DOC staff. Adult Wētāpunga may live longer than expected.