New Zealand is rich in wildlife and, because of its isolation, there are hundreds of plants and animals that evolved here that cannot be found anywhere else.
But human-introduced pests have threatened and even wiped out many species.
One of those is the native Wetapunga which has been around for 190 million years and used to be found all over New Zealand. But now these big insects are on the brink of extinction.
In a bid to save the species, the Auckland Zoo has launched a set of projects – including an interactive exhibition to inform and excite the next generation about the “weta”, one of the world’s heaviest insects that can weigh up to 70 grams.
“They are fascinating and people just dismiss them. But not only that, they’re really, really important for the environment. I mean, it’s how everything works together, and without insects, we wouldn’t be here,” says Kirsty Macfarlane, a guide at the Auckland Zoo Learning Centre, who strongly believes in the importance of raising awareness among children.
They’re the future, right? So, they’re the ones who are going to have be helping to keep insects safe and to stop them from becoming endangered. If they can really connect with insects at that young age and fall in love with them, I guess, then that will be great for our future,” she says.