News | 21 October 2020

Learning to love tarantulas and scorpions

Thankfully, tarantulas can’t jump. Which means they can’t jump from the table we’re sitting at and land right on our faces.

Dave Laux holds Rosie the tarantula.

Dave Laux holds Rosie the tarantula.

If you’ve seen Home Alone you’ll know the face is a particularly unpleasant place for a massive spider to be.

So it’s nice to hear they generally move very slowly and certainly don’t leap about.

Because right there in front of us is a tarantula, and it’s bigger than you’d imagine, crawling around on the table just an arm’s length away. 

But it’s also so much more beautiful than you’d expect, and with a name like Rosie, it’s bizarre how quickly your heart can soften towards the infamous furry fellows.

We’re at Minibeasts, Wellington Zoo’s newest behind the scenes experience, where you get to see a host of creatures up close, and learn all about how they live and what makes them tick.

We learn that the lovely Rosie is a Chilean Rose tarantula, for example.

We learn that the Home Alone spider was a Mexican Red Knee tarantula.

We learn that the closer you get, the more pleasant – and much less scary – tarantulas and scorpions become.

We learn all this from Dave Laux, Team Manager Reptiles and Invertebrates, and self-confessed ectotherm nerd.
Nesbit the scorpion.

Dave is hugely passionate and knowledgeable about every specimen in the Zoo’s Hero HQ facility, and had a fascinating answer to every question we asked. 

And he doesn’t muck around either.

One minute he’s telling us where to put our bags, the next he’s holding a whopping great scorpion called Nesbit (who also can’t jump). 

After Nesbit we’re shown the African giant millipede (quietly graceful), a pair of giant stick insects (quietly mating).

But it’s the tarantulas that demand our attention, and along with the Chilean, Mexican and Goliath bird-eating varieties, we see Brazilian Black and Andean Striped-Knee specimens.

Not all are as cute as Rosie, truth be told, and it was something of a relief that Dave didn’t get one of the Goliaths out of its home.

Apparently they’re more defensive and quick to aggression. Hmmm...

The Minibeasts experience costs $99 per person, with 10 percent of the proceeds going to help save wildlife and wild places through the Zoo’s conservation fund.

But it is inspirational and eye-opening, and educational, and a little bit terrifying. And while you can’t touch the creatures, you certainly get close enough.

In short, it’s brilliant.

By the end you’ll have a new appreciation of a few aptly named Minibeasts, including of course the strangely beautiful tarantulas. 

But you may still squirm in your seat watching Home Alone this Christmas.

Minibeast sessions are held at 2.30pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $99.00 per person, including Zoo entry, with a 10% discount for Zoo Crew members. For more information and to book your spot, visit wellingtonzoo.com/things-to-do/behind-the-scenes/minibeasts.