Frégate Island Beetles
The Frégate Island giant beetle, Polposipus herculaneus, is endemic to the isolated Frégate Island, part of the Seychelles archipelago in the Indian Ocean. These large beetles can grow to 3 cm long, while the island, in contrast, is tiny, only about 202 square hectares. These beetles' populations were devastated brown rats brought by humans. ZSL runs the European Breeding programme for these unique insects.
Though remote and isolated, when hotel construction began on Frégate Island in 1994, rats were inevitably introduced. These invasive animals spread and became a serious problem for local wildlife, inclusing the Frégate Island giant beetle, which is now listed as Critically Endangered under the IUCN Red List.
With the support of the Government of Seychelles and Frégate Island Private, in 1996 ZSL's Invertebrate Conservation Unit (ICU) was approached by the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles and Birdlife International and asked to establish an ex situ captive population of Frégate Island giant beetles. As a result 47 beetles were collected and transferred to ZSL in 1996 and a further 20 beetles were collected in 1999.
The project has, thankfully, been successful.
The captive population has provided us with much-needed insights into these unique insect's life histories, enabling us to better target conservation efforts in the field. We have developed a 'husbandry protocol' for the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP),designated in 2002. By 2004 the EEP population was over 1000 adult beetles and was being bred to its 5th generation.
Rat eradication and habitat perservation efforts in Fregate Island have also been carried out and there is hope that beetles might be reintroduced into their full former range in the future.
Our partners in this work included Amsterdam Zoo, Bristol Zoo, Poznan Zoo and Riga Zoo, and with Frégate Island Private, Birdlife Seychelles, and Nature Protection Trust Seychelles. Supported by BIAZA and EAZA.