Every day it appears we are announcing a different animal species as endangered or worse, extinct. It’s a sad state of affairs considering humans are responsible for an embarrassing amount of them. Even before the industrial revolution caused an irreparable amount of damage to our home continents, explorers were responsible for the destruction of a special species on a deserted rocky island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Though it is a small insect, humans believed it to be gone forever. Can an animal species make a vast comeback? Can humans actually help solve a problem we created? Read on to find out!
10. Ball’s Pyramid
Ball’s Pyramid is located 12 miles southeast of Lord Howe Island in the Pacific Ocean. It is the remaining vestige of a shield volcano and caldera which was created over 6.4 million years ago. It stands at 1,844 feet in elevation yet is only 3,600 feet in length. Find out how the island was discovered in #9.
9. The Island Discovery
The interesting island was discovered by its namesake Henry Lidgbird Ball in 1788 during the same voyage of the Lord Howe Island discovery. Historical records detail the first person to set foot on Ball’s Pyramid was geologist Henry Wilkinson in 1882 for the New South Wales Department of Mines.
8. What Resides On The Island?
The island is also the home to a very special animal species known as a “tree lobster.” The dryococelus australis, or the Lord Howe Island stick insect, is the large insect that spans the length of a human hand and looks to have a special coat of armor resembling that of a lobster.
7. The Tree Lobster
The insect measures up to 6 inches long and can weight up to one ounce. Males are decidedly larger than females with thicker and sturdier legs. The insect is unable to fly, but can run at a higher-than-average speed. The behavior of this insect is quite peculiar, as you’ll see in #6.
6. The Insect’s Special Bonds
Unlike most insects, male and female tree lobsters can form a special bond with each other. After mating, the female will lay her eggs while dangling from a tree branch and the young insects are born around nine months later. Surprisingly, reproduction can happen without a male present in a process known as parthenogenesis.
5. Man V. Insect
Even though the insects were not edible, explorers found they made perfect bait for fishing. As the years went on, more and more explorers sailed passed the island utilizing the small species to feed the crew. It was only a matter of time before human contact would prove to be fatal for the tree lobster.
4. Rats V. Insect
In 1918, the SS Makambo accidently ran aground releasing a deadly invasion of black rats. For a couple of years, the rats invaded the island, multiplied, and ate the entire population of the native stick insect. The last one was spotted in 1920 and after that, the species was believed to be extinct. Can the species be resurrected? Read on to #3 to find out.
3. Discovering The Dead
By 1964, a team of climbers landed on Ball’s Pyramid and discovered a dead Howe Island tree lobster. Over the next few years, more discoveries of insect carcasses were made and scientists hypothesized the animal was still around, however, a live specimen seemed to elude humans for decades to come.
2. Stayin’ Alive?
In 2001, two Australian scientists believed there was enough vegetation on the island to support an insect population. They climbed 500 feet of rock but only discovered crickets. On their way down, they saw insect droppings under a bush and decided to return after sundown, when the insects would be more active. They found 24 insects active on the island.
1. Saving The Species
Two of the insects were sent to Melbourne in order to attempt to breed them. After 50 were successfully bred in captivity they were sent back to Lord Howe Island. The return to their natural habitat proved to be a success. As of 2016, the Melbourne Zoo has hatched over 13,000 eggs and sent them to zoos all over the world.