Lord Howe Island Stick Insect
Common Names: Lord Howe Island Stick Insect, Lord Howe Island Phasmid, Land Lobster
Scientific Name: (Dryococelus australis)
Status: Critically Endangered
This strange insect is very critically endangered because rats were introduced to Lord Howe Island, one of the only places this species exists, and the insects couldn’t adapt and keep up with the new predator. In fact, it was believed this stick insect went extinct in 1920, but a population was found again in 1983. However, this “found” population was discovered on a different island in an area called Balls Pyramid, which is an area not originally included in this insect’s distribution and range. It’s interesting that the species moved to this area, which is free of the invasive rats, even though the habitat is not ideal.
The insects prefer to live in cavities in living trees during the day and they come out to find food at night. However, the only existing population (known today) doesn’t live in a habitat with trees, and they either live on the one species of shrub in the area or they take shelter in small crevices in the ground. It is unclear how many may be left in this last wild population; only 24 individuals were seen back in 2002.
A breeding program is currently taking place in a zoo in hopes of reintroducing the species to its original habitat on the main island of the Lord Howe Islands. The breeding is going well, but insects have not yet been released into the wild.