Location: New Zealand coastal regions
The katipo is related to the Australian redback spider and the North American black widow spiders. Katipo is a Māori name and means "night-stinger". Katipo have a narrow habitat, being only found living in sand dunes close to the seashore. Spinning an irregular tangled web amongst dune plants or other debris, they feed mainly on ground dwelling insects. A bite from the katipo produces a toxic syndrome known as latrodectism. Symptoms include extreme pain and potentially systemic effects, such as hypertension, seizure, or coma. Bites are rare and deaths have not been reported since the 19th century. An antivenom is available in New Zealand for treatment. The katipo is particularly notable in New Zealand as the nation is almost entirely devoid of dangerous native wildlife. This unique status has led to the spider becoming well known, despite sightings being very rare.
It is estimated that there are only a few thousand katipo left in about 50 areas in the North Island and eight in the South Island. A number of reasons have contributed to its decline; the major factors appear to be loss of habitat and declining quality of the remaining habitat. Coastal dune modification resulting from agriculture, forestry, or urban development along with recreational activities like the use of beach buggies, off road vehicles, beach horse riding and driftwood collection have destroyed or changed areas where katipo lives. The introduction of many invasive exotic plants has also contributed to the decline of suitable habitat.
In June 2010 the katipo was given full protection under New Zealand's Wildlife Act to assist conservation efforts. Suggested measures to preserve the katipo include reintroduction of their preferred grass species for web-building, fencing to prevent vehicles in the dunes, and securing protection for key coastline areas.
For more information and ways you can help, visit: