Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 433–443 | Cite as

Are footprint tracking tunnels suitable for monitoring giant weta (Orthoptera: Anostostomatidae)? Abundance, distribution and movement in relation to tracking rates

  • Corinne Watts
  • Ian Stringer
  • Danny Thornburrow
  • Darryl MacKenzie
Original Paper


Appropriate monitoring tools are essential for assessing the effectiveness of management for all threatened insect taxa. In New Zealand the large-bodied flightless orthopterans in the genus Deinacrida have mostly been monitored by searching through habitat during the day or spotlighting at night but this is time consuming and the results depend on the skill of the searcher. Recently, footprint tracking tunnels, similar to those used for monitoring small mammals in New Zealand, were found to be effective for detecting adults of various giant weta species. In this study, we compared the abundance of Cook Strait giant weta (CSGW) in the vicinity of the tunnels, estimated by mark-recapture, with the number of tracking tunnels tracked by weta. We found strong indications that both baited and unbaited tracking tunnels can be used to estimate the number of adult weta present but that this probably depends on their responses to meteorological conditions which are not yet understood. Our results also show that footprint tracking tunnels are more effective for detecting adult CSGW than searching for these insects at night and that baiting tracking tunnels with peanut butter increases their effectiveness for detecting adult CSGW. We confirmed how far Cook Strait giant weta moved each night on Matiu-Somes Island by attaching transmitters to them and found that day roosts of three adult males were on average 8.6 m apart each day and those of adult females were on average 21.3 m apart. Both the low recapture rates of marked adult CSGW and the nightly displacements of those with transmitters suggest that adult CSGW show no site fidelity and are clearly capable of moving large distances each night. However, an individual weta is unlikely to track more than one tunnel per night if tunnels are 30 m apart. Tracking tunnels have the potential to be used with some other insects, provided their footprints are diagnostic. An advantage of using tracking tunnels is that they are non-lethal and would therefore be particularly suitable for monitoring other large threatened insect taxa.


Conservation Monitoring tool Tracking tunnels Threatened taxa 



This research was funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (under contract C09X0508) and DOC investigation No. 4091. We thank Neil Fitzgerald (Landcare Research), Joanne Haige and Peter Hiemstra (DOC) for GIS assistance and for Figs 3, 4 and 8. Thanks to Dave Rodgers for taking most of the radiotracking fixes of CSGW on Matiu-Somes Island. Ian Flux, Nicky Bradley, Nick Fisentzidis, Clayson Howell, Greg Sherley, Helen Sharp, Genivieve Spargo (DOC) and Meryl Park (volunteer) helped searching for CSGW at night. Thanks to Jo Greenman (DOC) for her help and assistance on Matiu-Somes Island and Rohan Maheswaran for statistical help. George Gibbs, John Innes and Anne Austin provided useful comments on the draft manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Corinne Watts
    • 1
  • Ian Stringer
    • 2
  • Danny Thornburrow
    • 1
  • Darryl MacKenzie
    • 3
  1. 1.Landcare ResearchHamiltonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of ConservationWellingtonNew Zealand
  3. 3.Proteus Wildlife Research ConsultantsDunedinNew Zealand

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