Cape stag beetles (Colophon spp.)

Cape stag beetle, Colophon sp.
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Cape stag beetles fact file

Cape stag beetles description

GenusColophon (1)

Cape stag beetles are a group of slow-moving, wingless beetles whose 14 species are restricted to the mountain tops of Cape Province of South Africa (3). These reasonably stout beetles are medium-sized, and have shiny black bodies (4).


Cape stag beetles biology

Nothing is known of these beetles’ biology (6). Based on observed behaviour, and what is known of other lucanid beetles, it is presumed that Colophon species have an extremely low reproductive rate (7).


Cape stag beetles range

The genus Colophon is found only in isolated pockets in the mountains of the Western Cape Province around Cape Town, South Africa (5).


Cape stag beetles habitat

Little is documented concerning habitat, but the species are known to be associated with orographic fog and cloud cover (6).


Cape stag beetles status

There are 14 species listed on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1) and listed under Appendix III of CITES (2); C. berrisfordi, C. montisatris, C. cassoni and C. primosi are all classified as Critically Endangered (CR B1+2e), C. barnardi, C. eastmani, C. haughtoni and C. thunbergi are classified as Endangered (EN B1+2e), C. cameroni, C. neli, C. stokoei, C. westwoodi and C. whitei are classified as Vulnerable (VU B1+2e) and C. izardi is listed as Lower Risk/near threatened (LR/nt) on the IUCN Red List 2004.


Cape stag beetles threats

Collectors appear to pose the greatest threat to this enigmatic group of beetles (6). The Cape stag beetles are amongst the most highly prized beetles on the market (7), with complete sets of Colophon species fetching upward of $10,000, and even single specimens of the rarest species being advertised at several thousand dollars (3). Four Germans have recently been caught having captured 211 of these beetles (5). Other threats include habitat damage and loss, infrastructure development, inappropriate fire regimes, human disturbance, climate change and over-collection by researchers (4) (6). These threats are exacerbated by the small range occupied by this genus and their suspected low reproductive rate (4).


Cape stag beetles conservation

All Colophon species were given provincial legal protection in 1992, which served to limit legal collection, internal trade, and export from the province (7) (3). Their listing on Appendix III of CITES also controls import and export of the species across South Africa’s borders (2). These laws appear to be fairly rigorously enforced, with the four Germans recently caught with over 200 of these rare beetles fined almost 10,000 pounds (5). In 1994, it was proposed that Colophon beetles be upgraded to Appendix I of CITES, but the proposal was ultimately withdrawn (7). The upgrade of Colophon beetles to Appendix I would certainly help their chances of future survival, and should be seriously considered in the ongoing objective to protect these rare, endemic beetles.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For more information on the Cape stag beetles see:

Melisch, R. & Schutz, P. (2000) Butterflies and Beetles in Germany. TRAFFIC Bulletin. 18(3): 0. Available at:

Planet Ark: Rare beetles land Germans in hot water:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Related to, or caused by, the physical geography of mountains and mountain ranges.


  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2006)
  2. CITES (February, 2006)
  3. Beeton, B. (1997) Editorial Comments: Quote out of context – Colophon. TUGboat, 18(1): 5 - 6.
  4. Inland Invertebrate Initiative: Database of Threatened Invertebrates of South Africa (March, 2006)
  5. Planet Ark: Rare beetles land Germans in hot water (March, 2006)
  6. The South African National Roads Agency (March, 2006)
  7. Melisch, R. and Schutz, P. (2000) Butterflies and Beetles in Germany. TRAFFIC Bulletin, 18(3). Available at:

Image credit

Cape stag beetle, Colophon sp.  
Cape stag beetle, Colophon sp.

© Martin Harvey /

NHPA/Photoshot Holdings Ltd
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