Why rare beetles are being smuggled to Japan at an alarming rate
Big-horned rhinoceros beetles, taken from Bolivia, are ending up in Japan's illegal pet trade—and in beetle wrestling matches.
COROICO, BOLIVIA“We need dark nights—they don’t come when the moon is out,” Reynaldo Zambrana explains. “First comes the female, and then the male. One must run to grab them before they bury themselves.”
At 3 a.m. on a February morning in 2019, Zambrana is slashing at vegetation with a machete on a forested mountainside about 60 miles northeast of Bolivia’s capital, La Paz. In the clearing, he sets up a small generator to power a 250-watt lightbulb placed behind a white cloth suspended between two sticks.
We wait. An hour passes before the silence is broken by the whirr of wingbeats—beetles careening toward the glow in the forest—and, Zambrana hopes, entrapment in his cloth.
In the end, this hunt yields three Dynastes satanas, big