Chasing beetles like lucky charms

Like finding a jackpot – this is how we imagine the work of expert Dr. Alexander Dostal when he is chasing extremely rare beetles. The probability to detect them at the Zoo Vienna is luckily higher. He is looking for beetles like he would for lucky charms.

Surveying biodiversity, especially the abundance of very rare or endangered species, belong to the most important recommendations and strategies for biodiversity conservation in Austria. With the support of the Austrian Lotteries we are able to carry out one of our dearest projects – surveying native beetles on zoo grounds.

An evolutionary success story.

Beetles are with approximately 350.000 species worldwide by far the most diverse group of insects. In Austria, around 7.500 species are known. They occasionally differ quite remarkably in body composition, size, lifestyle, and habitat: the superb stag beetle feeds for example on oak sap, the ladybug chases greenflys and the vibrant metallic wood-boring beetle feeds on bark and leaves.

Naturally, the cost to record and to identify the high variation of beetle species is diverse and complex. The appropriate method for collection is chosen under consideration of the special conditions at the zoo and – needless to say – with least possible disturbance or impact on zoo animals and visitors. The sampling takes place on and in the ground, on trees and leaves and using light-traps at night.   

Some of the beetle species can be identified directly upon collection at the zoo with the naked eye, others must be placed under a microscope or even need to be forwarded to a designated expert on specific taxonomic groups for identification – thus, to find out which species of beetles utilize the zoo as a habitat is a truly challenging project.

Dr. Iris Starnberger – scientific manager: „The oak trees along the walkway to the Tirolerhof, the pelican-pond, the flowering roses along the South American enclosure and the dung pile of the African elephants do have one thing in common: they provide food and habitat for native beetles. We are extremely curious to see the results of the current Coleoptera-Sampling on the grounds of the zoo. Of course we are interested in the number of species but even more in their needs, so we can consider their well-being as good as possibe in our day-to-day work.“ 

Kindly supported by the Austrian Lotteries