I’ve written twice before about Drycoceocelus australis, the giant stick insect of Lord Howe, an isolated volcanic island in the South Pacific (see here and here). The beast was once thought to be extinct, but climbers found 24 on Ball’s Pyramid, a jutting vertical spire of rock about 8 km from Lord Howe. They’re “youge,” as Philomena would say, weighing up to nearly an ounce, and look like this:
Over the past few years, thousands of these insects have been reared en masse at the Melbourne Zoo in Australia, and are starting to be reintroduced on Lord Howe, where the predatory population of human-introduced rats has now been extinguished. Let’s hope the introduction is successful, for this is truly a remarkable creature.
There’s an animated 20-minute video of the rediscovery and rescue of the species, “Sticky,” narrated by one of the climbers who found this insect, and it’s well worth watching. In fact, if your kids like nature, watch this with them and show them pictures of the insect (be sure to look at my two earlier posts as well). I think this will be one of the great successes of conservation. But remember, people went to all this effort because this is a giant and charismatic insect. Nobody would ever try to save a 3-mm-long beetle this way, and that’s just sad, for what this insect has going for it is sheer size, but how many other biological marvels hide in smaller creatures?