They’re not known for their speed and have a bad rap due to their scary appearance but at least Auckland Zoo’s giant weta have some cool transportation.
As part of Mazda New Zealand’s sponsorship of Auckland Zoo, a new BT-50 ute, with weta-friendly signage, has been added to the fleet.
The giant weta (weta punga) were bred at Auckland Zoo, and just before Christmas released into forest habitat in The Noises group of islands in the Hauraki Gulf.
The zoo’s new aptly skinned weta punga Mazda BT-50 transported three keepers and their 324 charges to the Bayswater Marina where they boarded a Department of Conservation boat to The Noises.
The covered tray of the double cab Mazda was filled with the polystyrene containers with the weta inside, plus the keepers’ equipment needed for the night-time release.
Weta ready for their trip to The Noises
Weta punga are the largest of New Zealand’s 11 giant weta species, and one of the world’s heaviest insects, weighing up to 70g.
Once widespread throughout Northland and Auckland, weta punga are today only found naturally on Little Barrier Island. They are classed as an endangered species due to introduced species, such as rats, devastating the wild population.
This release of the unique nocturnal invertebrate follows Auckland Zoo’s earlier release in June of over 900 weta punga on the privately owned pest-free Noises in June.
“With the approval of the Department of Conservation and great support from Noises landowners and iwi, we’re absolutely delighted to be managing the release of weta punga here,” said Auckland Zoo Ectotherms team leader, Don McFarlane.
“This is prime real estate for these beautiful creatures to thrive and breed, which is what they desperately need.” With a bit of off-roading as an occasional part of the job, the 3.2-litre diesel GLX BT-50 had a manual gearbox instead of the six-speed auto found in the zoo’s other Mazda BT-50.
With the manual BT-50 often used for transporting creepy crawlies it’s definitely not the kind of vehicle you want to accidentally bang into at the lights, but at least with the huge images of the weta on the vehicle, there won’t be much tailgating.