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Lord Howe Island Stick Insect
The Lord Howe Island Stick Insect, Dryococelus australis, was driven to the brink of extinction by Black Rats in the early twentieth century. However, in 2001 it was rediscovered on Balls Pyramid, a rat-free volcanic outcrop 23 km off the coast of Lord Howe Island.
The seas around Balls Pyramid are too rough to land a boat. However, a rescue team leapt ashore in 2003 and brought two breeding pairs of Lord Howe Island Stick Insects back to mainland Australia.
At the time of their rediscovery, very little was known about Lord Howe Island Stick Insects. Melbourne Zoo plays a important role in the captive breeding of this Critically Endangered species.
Adult Lord Howe Island Stick Insects are wingless and nocturnal, feeding only on one species of shrub. The one remaining population only has 20-30 individuals.
Melbourne Zoo staff continue to conduct intensive research into stick insect diet, behaviour and biology, as well as maintaining the largest captive breeding program for this species.
Our key aims for the recovery of this species are to:
- Maintain an insurance population in captivity
- Increase community awareness of the plight of the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect and raise community support for its conservation
- Supplement wild populations through captive breeding for reintroduction. The ultimate aim is to reintroduce free-ranging Lord Howe Island Stick Insects onto Lord Howe Island, but rats will first have to be eradicated from the island
Plans and publications
- Melbourne Zoo bred 1300 Lord Howe Island Stick Insects in the past 12 months
- Eggs of the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect incubate for 6½ months before hatching
- Balls Pyramid, home to the last wild population of Lord Howe Island Stick Insects, is also the tallest sea stack in the world