Finding and saving the Tree Lobsters

Patrick Honan/Nick Carlile

I was giddy with excitement when I read this story last week. Not only did the world become MORE biodiverse when a small population of insects presumed extinct were found on a rock in the middle of the Tasman sea, on top of that, the discovered insects are amazing! Have you seen a picture of them??? They are beautiful. Stunning.

To paraphrase their story, they were common on an island off the coast of Australia, called Lord Howe Island, until a ship stopped there in 1918. On that ship were rats and those rats escaped onto the island. Once on the island, the rats ate all of the giant stick insects. All of them. They were assumed extinct until a few years ago. The insects were found on Ball’s Pyramid- a steep rock jutting out of the ocean- on a remnant bush. Twenty-four of the stick insects were found on the rock. After much consideration, the Australian government allowed scientists to take 4 insects, or 2 pair, off of the rock to start a captive breeding program. Now 700 live in the Melbourne Zoo. Go here to read their whole story.

Now what? They have hundreds of insects ready to go, back out into the wild. But where do we put them? Back on Lord Howe Island? The rats are still there and would still devour the insect population. The best bet is to eradicate the rats from the island, which is done in many, many islands and parks in and around AustraliaNew Zealand, and the world (check out the work of Island Conservation). A lot of times, this eradication is done to protect native birds, as they evolved without rat predators in many parts of the world. But what about native insects? Are people willing to spend their taxes on eradicating rats to bring back some giant, black stick insects? That is an easy answer for me, but some people might need convincing. That is why I do this blog. To try to exposed and teach the public about the importance and beauty of insects. Is it working? 🙂

The Melbourne Museum is also working on giant stick insect PR and they created this beautiful video that needs sharing:

Lord Howe Island Stick Insect hatching from Zoos Victoria on Vimeo.


About tcornelisse
This entry was posted in Conservation solutions, General conservation issues, Insects! and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Finding and saving the Tree Lobsters

  1. Pingback: Baumhummer « Herbstbaum

  2. Kate C says:

    This is an amazing recovery story but all credit is due to Zoos Victoria not Melbourne Museum. Zoos Victoria made the video and continue the breeding program they began in 2003. More info is here:

  3. Ian says:

    The goal of rodent eradication on LHI is to protect the LHI environment and island biodiversity. Many threatened species are negatively impacted by rodents, not just the Phasmid. Clearly, the implications for the Phasmid are huge as a rat free island would enable reintroduction, but it is incorrect to suggest that this project is based solely on the desire to return the Phasmid. This very achievable eradication is one of the most significant conservation actions that can be implemented in NSW if not Australia

    • tcornelisse says:

      I figured that was the case, as it is on so many islands (and “mainlands”) in that part of the world. I recently went to the Conservation Biology conference in Auckland and was able to see first-hand some of the amazing and successful rodent eradication programs in the area- it was truly inspirational to hear and see the returning birdlife. If you are involved- keep up the good work!!!

  4. eli says:

    I have these insects in my back yard, in south Texas. Can this be possible?

  5. tcornelisse says:

    That is a pretty big stick bug, but I think a different species than this giant rock lobster! Cool that you have those in your yard!

  6. Pingback: For the love of insects! | Conservation of Biodiversity

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