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Phasmid book launched

7 September 2015

This story began in 1918, when rats ran ashore from a ship grounded on Lord Howe Island.

Native wildlife had no defence against them, so Lord Howe Island Stick Insects plus many other species were wiped out.

In 2001 something miraculous happened: scientists discovered three of the stick insects on Ball’s Pyramid, a steep sea stack 23km from Lord Howe Island.

Another survey in 2003 found a total of 17 individuals in that spot, where a few melaleucas clung precariously to the rocks, providing the only source of food for the Phasmids.

Melbourne Zoo became part of this adventure story in 2003, when a pair of Phasmids arrived here.

The invertebrate expertise built up here since the Butterfly House opened in 1985 meant that Keepers were well placed to undertake the species survival breeding program for the Phasmids.

But like all adventure stories, this one had its ups and downs.

It began with weeks of all-night observations, to work out what these rare creatures needed.

The sensational success has led to visits from conservation icons Dr. Jane Goodall and Sir David Attenborough.

Now Invertebrate Keeper Rohan Cleave, in collaboration with award-winning artist Coral Tulloch, has produced a fascinating and inspiring book for children, the first-ever children’s book to be published by the CSIRO.

Rohan has dedicated the book to his own two children, Lily and Alex, and he hopes that the book will be embraced by families who want their children to understand the significance of each and every species on the planet.

Rohan says ‘if we can get the children interested in Phasmids and all the work being done to save them, we hope they will gain an understanding of the challenges wildlife species are facing.

‘That would be a great step towards inspiring the younger generation to join conservation bodies such as our zoos in our efforts to fight extinction.’

Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect is now in the Zoos Victoria shops and can be ordered online.