Colophon cassoni

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 cassoni Barnard, 1932

FAMILY Lucanidae (stag beetles)

  • Genus Colophon: Cape Mountain Stag Beetles
  • Species Colophon cassoni: Casson's Cape Mountain Stag Beetle

Taxon concept: The species concept employed here is that of Endrödy-Younga (1988), for Colophon cassoni "forma typica" [sic, p. 399] with the inclusion of Colophon cassoni "morpha recurva" Endrödy-Younga, 1988: 400.

The "morpha" described by Endrödy-Younga (1988) is an infrasubspecific entity and hence an invalid taxon. Categories below that of subspecies are not regulated by the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (4th edition, 1999) and therefore do not exist for the purposes of zoological nomenclature.



2. Prior, existing or proposed conservation status


2.1. Published IUCN Red List Status (1996)

Critically Endangered B1+2e (ver. 2.3).

Annotation: Needs updating.

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


2.2. IUCN Red List Status revised 2011 (unpublished)

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 Submitted to IUCN, but unpublished.

Red List Status: Data Deficient.


The type locality, as recorded, is vague and has as yet been impossible to locate. Specimens collected after the collection of the type material are only present in private collections, and they bear the same vague locality name. This lack of information precludes the objective assessment of an IUCN threat status.

REFERENCES: Switala, Stals & Raimondo (2011d); Switala (2013).


Comment on the 2011 Red List evaluation:

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.

From what I have been told in confidence, it seems that this hitherto unutilised information has the potential to alter the Red List status of some of the Colophon species. Colophon cassoni is, however, not one of these species, since the aforementioned survey could not locate specimens of this species.


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.

Unlisted, in error, on grounds of the 2011 Red List assessment of Data Deficient.


2.6. National Sensitive Species List, 2010

Listed as both Colophon cassoni and as "Colophon cassoni subsp. recurva". The latter name is in error. No "subspecies recurva" ever existed, since Endrödy-Younga (1988) described 'recurva' as a "morpha", which is an invalid taxonomic category (see above). "morpha recurva" was never raised to the rank of subspecies.


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

Bellamy CL, Endrödy-Younga S (1996d) Colophon cassoni. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 1996: e.T5153A11118480. 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.

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 (2011d) Colophon cassoni. 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


The population of Colophon cassoni is vulnerable for the following reason:

  1. Known from only a single (sub-)population.
  2. Potentially at risk of localised extinction, and known from only a single location.
  • The population size is unknown.
  • The range size cannot be determined (see above), but it is bound to be smaller than 100 km².



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 (2011d) Colophon cassoni. IUCN Red List Assessment. Submitted to IUCN, but unpublished. On file with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

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 the entire extant population, or such a large proportion thereof, that it may not recover. With current knowledge, recruitment from elsewhere is impossible, since only a single population has until now been recorded.

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.