Colophon stokoei

Assessor: Riaan Stals

Sensitive in 2010
Reason for the sensitivity status
Wild specimens of this genus are known to be targeted and exploited for international trade as seen on online marketplaces. Trade in dead and alive stag beetles causes population decline. This species has a vulnerable population size with risk of the whole extant population being harvested. Recovery may not be possible. Releasing data on this species can exacerbate threat and vulnerability.
This species is either similar to another sensitive species or belongs to a group containing sensitive species, and is extremely rare in the wild. The localities of wild populations need to be protected to avoid loss to exploitation, which, due to its rarity, could drive the species to extinction within a very short time.
Exploitation extent
Uncertain - No data exists yet showing that this species is exploited in the wild, however it has one or more relatives or look-alike species (found in South Africa or globally) that are known to be utilised. This species has a similar life form or other relevant traits to its exploited relative(s), making it highly likely that it would be exploited for the same purposes.
Justification and references


1. Taxonomy

Colophon stokoei Barnard, 1929

FAMILY Lucanidae (stag beetles)

  • Genus Colophon: Cape Mountain Stag Beetles
  • Species Colophon stokoei: Stokoe's Cape Mountain Stag Beetle

Taxon concept: The species concept employed here is that of Jacobs, Scholtz & Strümpher (2015), and not that of Endrödy-Younga (1988).

When newly describing Colophon stokoei, Barnard (1929) recognised five "varieties" in the species. Endrödy-Younga (1988) followed Barnard (1929) herein, maintaining the five "varieties", even if with some hesitance. Switala (2013) presented molecular, morphological and distributional evidence that suggested that three of these "varieties" need to be described as proper species. This was done by Jacobs, Scholtz & Strümpher (2015), who newly described Colophon deschodtiColophon struempheri and Colophon switalae. Those three species are elsewhere treated separately in these evaluations.

The current concept of Colophon stokoei is hence that of Barnard (1929) and Endrödy-Younga (1988) from which the three "varieties", represented by the three new species (Jacobs, Scholtz & Strümpher 2015), have been "subtracted". Unfortunately, Jacobs, Scholtz & Strümpher (2015) neglected to state which of the old "varieties" correspond to their three new species.



2. Prior, existing or proposed conservation status


2.1. Published IUCN Red List Status (1996)

Vulnerable B1+2e (ver. 2.3).

Annotation: Needs updating.

REFERENCE: Bellamy & Endrödy-Younga (1996k).

◘ It is important to note that this evaluation was of Colophon stokoei in the sense of Endrödy-Younga (1988), which has become invalid since the fragmentation of the species by Jacobs, Scholtz & Strümpher (2015) (see above).


2.2. IUCN Red List Status revised 2011 (unpublished)

Re-evaluated in May 2011. Submitted to IUCN, but unpublished.

Red List Status: Not Threatened --- OUTDATED!

REFERENCE: Switala, Stals & Raimondo (2011n).


Comment on the 2011 Red List evaluation:

It is critically important to note that the 2011 evaluation was of Colophon stokoei in the sense of Endrödy-Younga (1988), which has become invalid since the fragmentation of the species by Jacobs, Scholtz & Strümpher (2015) (see above). Colophon stokoei in its new sense needs to be evaluated afresh.

The Red List Status of Not Threatened found by Switala, Stals & Raimondo (2011n) is not longer valid. Therein that a large component of the erstwhile Colophon stokoei was newly described as the three separate, independent species (above), a large part of the range of Colophon stokoei in the old sense was "lost", with the nett effect that this species is now more range-restricted and consists of fewer (sub-)populations, at fewer locations, as were evaluated by Switala, Stals & Raimondo (2011n).

Switala (2013: 73) anticipated these changes, and noted that "[this] taxonomic revision would possibly result in each of the newly described species (old varieties) having a threat status of Endangered or Criticallly Endangered." It should be added to Switala's (2013) foresight that the "remaining" taxon that constitutes Colophon stokoei in the new sense would suffer exactly the same fate, and that a threat status of Endangered or Criticallly Endangered can realistically be expected for Colophon stokoei in the new sense.

In February 2018 I was informed of the existence of a treasure-trove of unpublished locality, temporal and ecobiological data that resulted from a wide-ranging field survey of all Colophon species, carried out approximately from 2007 to 2014. It seems that the custodians of this information have decided against the publication thereof. I immediately launched an attempt to hopefully obtain those data for the next round of Red List evaluations of all the known and valid species of Colophon.


2.3. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

Listed in Appendix III since anno 2000.

  • Listed as "Colophon spp." to which interpretative note No. 2 refers: "The abbreviation “spp.” is used to denote all species of a higher taxon."

REFERENCE: CITES Appendices valid from 2017-10-04.


2.4. Threatened or Protected Species (ToPS) list, 2007

"Colophon spp – All species" listed in category: Endangered Species.


2.5. Threatened or Protected Species (ToPS) list, revised 2011 (unpublished)

•• Revised lists published for public comment: Notice 389 of 2013, Government Gazette No. 36375, 16 April 2013.


This non-listing of Colophon stokoei resulted from the Red List status of Not Threatened found by  Switala, Stals & Raimondo (2011n). Please see the discussion above for why this categorisation has become invalid since the fragmentation of the species by Jacobs, Scholtz & Strümpher (2015). Revision of this categorisation is urgently necessary.


2.6. National Sensitive Species List, 2010

Listed, as Colophon stokoei in the sense of Endrödy-Younga (1988), which has become invalid since the fragmentation of the species by Jacobs, Scholtz & Strümpher (2015) (see above).


2.7. Western Cape Province, Nature Conservation Ordinance 19 of 1974, as amended by Proclamation 24 of 1992

“Genus Colophon: All species” listed in Schedule 1 as Endangered Wild Animal.


3. Exploitation extent

Specimens of any and all Lucanidae (stag beetles) have for many decades been probably the most sought-after beetles among armchair and safari collectors in affluent communities. A simple Google search will reveal the enormous extent of international trade in stag beetles, both as dead, preserved specimens and as livestock. Two enduring trends in the trade of beetles are the following:

  1. Rare, scarce and other difficult-to-obtain beetle species are more valuable than commoner species or species that are easier to obtain, and rare and scarce beetle species command higher prices.
  2. Larger individual specimens within any collectable beetle species are more valuable than smaller specimens and command higher prices.

Among stag beetles worldwide, the species of Colophon (Cape Mountain Stag Beetles) are only of moderate size. They are, however, widely considered as among the rarest of all stag beetles, or even as the rarest of all stag beetle species in the world. They are frequently marketed and advertised as such. Colophon specimens are said to be particularly prized among beetle collectors.

All the species of the genus Colophon are endemic to the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Twenty-one species are presently known and considered valid. Wealthy armchair and safari collectors of beetles have a general aim to own a "complete" collection, meaning representative specimens of all the species and subspecies within a focal taxonomic group, in this case the genus Colophon.

For perhaps more than a century and a half already, "gentleman collectors" have been advised of what species are potentially available for them to obtain through catalogues, more often than not published by purveyors of deadstock. This practice reached its pinnacle with the luxurious and exceptionally expensive books published since 1999 by Taita Publishers in the Czech Republic. The Taita books clearly serve both as appetisers for the wealthy beetle collector and as modern shopping catalogues, brilliantly designed and illustrated, representing the gamut of what an armchair collector would like to obtain for his collection in order for it to become "complete". For the Lucanidae (stag beetles) of Africa, Taita published in 2004 a truly magnificent book (Bartolozzi & Werner 2004), wherein the 16 species and non-nominotypical subspecies of the genus Colophon known at the time were "advertised" with large and magnificent photographs.

Evidence for trade in Colophon species

This genus is popular in trade and there is demand from international markets for the collection of rare and endemic Colophon species as indicated by media news reports and several online marketplace, e-commerce, and auction sites. In 2004, arrests were made for the poaching and possession of endangered Colophon species, a genus known to be valuable to international collectors (Planet Ark, 2004; Pretoria News, 2004; Sunday Times, 2004). The above assessments suggests that the genus is being targeted and that this species is at risk. See attached files for further trade evidence.

4. References

Barnard KH (1929) A study of the genus Colophon Gray (Coleoptera). Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 18(3): 163–182. doi:10.1080/00359192909518797.

Bellamy CL, Endrödy-Younga S (1996k) Colophon stokoei. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 1996: e.T5164A11118821. Downloaded on 23 February 2018.

Bartolozzi L, Werner K (2004) Illustrated Catalogue of the Lucanidae from Africa and Madagascar. Taita Publishers, Hradec Králové, Czech Republic. 191 pp. Book homepage at publisher.

Endrödy-Younga S (1988) Evidence for the low-altitude origin of the Cape Mountain Biome derived from the systematic revision of the genus Colophon Gray (Coleoptera, Lucanidae). Annals of the South African Museum 96(9): 359–424.

Jacobs CT, Scholtz CH, Strümpher WP (2015) Taxonomy of Colophon Gray (Coleoptera: Lucanidae): new species and a status change. Zootaxa 4057(1): 135–142. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.4057.1.9.

Planet Ark. 2004. 5 February 2004. Rare beetles land Germans in hot water. Available at:­Feb­2004/story.htm

Switala AK (2013) Systematics and Conservation of Colophon Gray (Coleoptera: Lucanidae). Unpublished MSc thesis, University of Pretoria. vii + 89 pp. URI:

Switala AK, Stals R, Raimondo D (2011n) Colophon stokoei. IUCN Red List Assessment. Submitted to IUCN, but unpublished. On file with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

Population vulnerability
Population is vulnerable: size is <= 2500 mature individuals OR the number of known subpopulations is <= 5 OR range is <= 100km2 OR species at risk of localised extinctions
Justification and references


After the fragmentation of Colophon stokoei in the old sense by Jacobs, Scholtz & Strümpher (2015) (see above), it has become unclear what the range and number of (sub-)populations of Colophon stokoei in the new sense are. Switala (2013: 73) reported Colophon stokoei in the old sense from seven confirmed locations and suspected to find the species on another five mountain peaks of suitable altitude and within the broader distribution of the species in the old sense. In their redescription of Colophon stokoei in the new sense, Jacobs, Scholtz & Strümpher (2015) neglected to give useful information about the distribution of this newly circumscribed taxon.

I propose that the population of Colophon stokoei (in the sense of Jacobs, Scholtz & Strümpher 2015) is vulnerable for the following reasons:

  1. The species is likely known and confirmed from only five or fewer (sub-)populations. The number of (sub)-populations would necessarily have decreased with the exclusion of the three newly described species from Colophon stokoei.
  2. The AOO of Colophon stokoei in the new sense may well be less than 100 km².
  3. The species is potentially at risk of localised extinction.
  • The population size is unknown.


Research into this matter should be urgently undertaken. As noted above, new and unpublished data have been amassed, and should be utilised together with clarification of previously existing information, which has now fallen into disarray.



Jacobs CT, Scholtz CH, Strümpher WP (2015) Taxonomy of Colophon Gray (Coleoptera: Lucanidae): new species and a status change. Zootaxa 4057(1): 135–142. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.4057.1.9.

Switala AK (2013) Systematics and Conservation of Colophon Gray (Coleoptera: Lucanidae). Unpublished MSc thesis, University of Pretoria. vii + 89 pp. URI:

Targeted demographics
Mature (breeding) individuals are killed, significantly weakened or are permanently removed from the wild, OR immature individuals are targeted and this significantly impacts mature (breeding) individuals.
Regeneration potential
This species has a slow population growth rate, or the growth rate varies depending on habitat, and there is a poor chance the wild populations will recover from exploitation OR a collector might feasibly harvest the entire extant population removing the chance of subsequent recruitment.
Justification and references

◘ No information exists about the regeneration potential of this species.

◘ It is not unthinkable that a collector may harvest an entire extant population, or such a large proportion thereof, that it may not recover.

As this species has a vulnerable population and is at risk of localized extinction, it is highly susceptible to rapid decline through collection. Recovery may be poor.