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Searching for the worlds rarest insect

Auckland Zoo - 28.06.2019


“First and foremost we want to find them. Are the beetles still there?”


Write up by Auckland Zoo - Early one December morning in 2018, a crew of researchers and experts set out on a 9-hour journey by land and by sea, to reach a group of islands located 62km northeast of Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland. Their destination? A series of volcanic stacks known as the Mokohinau islands that rest on the edge of a continental shelf; the only location of a rare and ecologically significant stag beetle.

This specialised search crew included Dr Greg Sherley and Ian Stringer from the Department of Conservation, consultant Rob Chappell and Auckland Zoo’s team leader of ectotherms, Don Mcfarlane, who set off from Kennedy Bay after a necessary biosecurity check.

The largest and most well-known of the Mokohinau islands are Fanal Island (Motukino), Flax Island (Hokoromea), Trig Island (Atihau) and Burgess Island (Pokohinu), but within their spread is a site of the utmost importance to our experts and their mission – a small rocky outcrop with the undistinguished name of ‘Stack H’. Don describes this tiny 1.2ha landmass as a “giant bald head with an incredibly bad toupee sitting on top” and it is where the Mokohinau stag beetle was last seen in 2008.


Directed by Benjamin Brooking. Filmed on location in Aotearoa, New Zealand.