Rare Stick Insect Brought Back from Extinction


January 29, 2016

Photo: Courtesy of YouTube.

Photo: Courtesy of YouTube.

Once thought to be extinct, the Lord Howe Island stick insect is now thriving in captive breeding, reports Australian Geographic.

At the Melbourne Zoo in Australia there are now 13,000 new hatchlings, bred in the hopes that one day this species can be reintroduced into their native habitat on Lord Howe Island, located roughly 485 miles north east of Sydney. Considering the wild population totals less than 40, this is a major accomplishment.

The Lord Howe Island stick insect, nicknamed land lobsters, was thought to have been wiped out by rats in 1920. After a small group was found clinging to Balls Pyramid, a sea stack near the island, in 2001, plans immediately began for the breeding programs in Sydney and Melbourne.

Scientists traveled to Balls Pyramid and collected two pairs of stick insects. One pair went to Sydney, and the other, named Adam and Eve, went to the Melbourne Zoo.

Photo: Courtesy of YouTube.

Photo: Courtesy of YouTube.

Following many ups and downs, Eve laid her first 10 eggs. Soon after she became sick, and scientists had to come up with a solution without any knowledge on the health of this species. After giving Eve a concoction of blended leaves and calcium, she bounced back. Over her lifetime, she went on to lay 248 eggs, an average amount for this insect.

Since then, the Bristol Zoo joined the effort to save the species, stating 38 Lord Howe Island stick insect hatchlings had emerged from the 300 eggs sent from the Melbourne Zoo, reports the BBC.

And a little closer to home, batches of eggs have been sent to the San Diego Zoo and Toronto Zoo to continue this initiative.

In Melbourne, scientists are expecting the 13th generation to hatch later this year.

Before scientists can consider reintroducing this species back to their natural habitat, one crucial problem must be addressed; the rats. Yes, even today the black rat problem persists on the Lord Howe Island. However, local officials have introduced a new plan to eliminate the rat problem altogether. If you’re interested in learning more about their rodent control baiting schedule for 2016, you can find that here.


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