Taking the weta with you

23:00, Jan 20 2010
'IT FELT A BIT TICKLISH': Rion Anderson of Ngaio with the Cook Strait giant weta crawl.
'IT FELT A BIT TICKLISH': Rion Anderson of Ngaio with the Cook Strait giant weta crawl.

Six-year-old Rion Anderson of Ngaio showed no fear when he let a Cook Strait giant weta crawl all over his hands and face at wildlife sanctuary Zealandia yesterday.

The rare, mouse-sized insect was one of 40 released into the sanctuary from Matiu/Somes Island.

Although weta are terrifying to many people, Rion said he had not hesitated about the chance to have the ultimate encounter with a creature "bigger than my hand".

"It was great. It felt a bit ticklish."

Rion's mother, Georgina Wedge, said the family were members at the sanctuary and the children were used to dealing with lots of animals.

"They're not afraid of anything ... But I was still surprised he was prepared to do that."

A Zealandia spokesman said giant weta were not as fearsome as they looked. The nocturnal herbivores were less aggressive than the more common tree weta.

The giant weta transfer is part of an effort at Zealandia to establish the species' first mainland population since they were nearly wiped out in the 19th century.

But visitors were not likely to see giant weta at Zealandia until the population stabilised – unless they caught a glimpse on a nocturnal tour.

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