In the middle of Australia and New Zealand there lies an island. It is stranded in the Tasmanian Sea, and it is the last volcanic remnant in the area. This island is filled with beautiful and lush flora and fauna, and it has a very small population of around 400 people.
However, this island holds a secret that has been kept for 80 years. The residents knew nothing about it, and only a long off rumor led to this secret being discovered. While this island is surely gorgeous, the secret it holds is large and dark. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to read about an amazing find on a very old island!
Click ‘Start Slideshow’ to read all about how a dark secret was discovered on an old and small island.
Lord Howe’s Island
Lord Howe’s Island is located in the Tasmanian Sea. It is made from an old volcano that is now inactive. This beautiful island is very small, and it can only house a population of 400 people. There are tourists that arrive on this island for the amazing sandy beaches, but there are only 400 allowed at a time.
Lord Howe’s Island is only 6.2 miles long and 1.24 miles wide at its widest point. It is a crescent shaped island, but it is just one of many islands in the area. They are called the Lord Howe’s Island Group, which had 28 islands, islets, and rocks. It was spotted back in 1788 by Henry Lidgbird Ball, who was British.
What was living on this small island? Click ‘Next’ to find out the unique insect it held in its grasp.
A Strange Kind of Bug
One of the strangest things about Lord Howe’s Island is the bug that was found there. They are a six-legged stick bug that can grow as large as the human hand. Sailors would catch them and use them to fish with as bait. These bugs have a very hard exoskeleton, so they were often referred to as tree lobsters.
If you look closely, the bug really does look like a lobster that would live on land! The scientific name for the bug is Dryococelus australis. At one point in time, these bugs were very abundant. They were crawling all over the island and a healthy part of the island’s ecosystem. However, soon there would be something that would make these bugs go extinct.
Click ‘Next’ to find out what caused these large stick bugs to never be seen again.
The tree lobsters lived a very happy life on their island, and there wasn’t anything to hurt their population numbers. They were not considered endangered by any means. However, in 1918, the S.S. Makambo supply ship broke down near Lord Howe Island. This British ship had to stay docked while crews worked endlessly to get it up and running again.
It only took nine days for the ship to be repaired, but that was enough time for some horrible damage to take place on the island. It turned out that there were black rats that were aboard the S.S. Makambo. When the ship was docked, these rats fled as fast as they could. They were excited to experience an island that was filled with their new favorite snack.
Why was this ship wreck so important? Find out why by clicking ‘Next.’ You don’t want to miss this!
Effects of a Broken Down Ship
As soon as the rats had left the ship and came onto the island, they discovered that their new favorite snack was the tree lobster. They would hunt them all throughout the night, and the tree lobster numbers were dwindling fast.
There wasn’t anything that could be done to help save the tree lobsters. As fast as they could multiply, the rats would multiply faster. Plus, the rats had a much bigger appetite and would eat a few tree lobsters a day per rat. It only took two years for the tree lobster population to be completely wiped out. The last sighting was in 1920, so the Dryococelus australis was determined to be an extinct insect.
What would save these insects from being a lost thought? Click ‘Next’ to find out the rumor!
A Rumored Sighting
The tree lobster was a unique insect that was only living on Lord Howe Island. These bugs were not thought to be on any of the other rock groupings. Because of this, there wasn’t any news for 40 years about the tree lobsters.
Then, in 1960, two climbers who were scaling a rock in the Lord Howe Island Group said that they spotted a few tree lobster corpses that looked like they had just very recently died. This was because the animals were lying on the rock. What the climbers didn’t know was that the tree lobster was a nocturnal insect, so they wouldn’t have been moving during the day. Still, the rumor was not enough to get anyone to go check it out, so the tree lobsters were still extinct.
Where was the rumor coming from that the tree lobsters were alive? Click ‘Next’ to find out the truth!
The rock that the climbers were scaling is called Ball’s Pyramid. Ball’s Pyramid is extremely tall, and it is actually considered to be the tallest volcanic stack in the world. It was an elevation of 1,844 feet, and it is just 3,600 by 980 feet in length and width.
Just looking at Ball’s Pyramid shows how treacherous this piece of land is. Most people wouldn’t dare climb something like this, but there are some very experienced climbers who have attempted. There was a group in 1965 that made the first successful climb to the top of the summit. It was completed again in 1979, but then climbing was banned in 1982. This remained for a few years, but not climbing of Ball’s Pyramid is allowed once again if you receive the correct permits. Still, it is a very treacherous climb.
What was the secret that this island was holding? Click ‘Next’ to try and find out! It’s crazy!
Two Scientists’ Journey
Two Australian scientists who were attempting to catalogue the flora and fauna in the Lord Howe Island Group decided to go and look at Ball’s Pyramid. Getting to Ball’s Pyramid is very dangerous because there are a lot of rocks that can damage and shipwreck the boat. The two scientists told media outlets that it would have been easier to swim yourself rather than take a boat into the rock, but Ball’s Pyramid has a lot of sharks swimming amongst its rocky shore.
They knew that it was probably a shot in the dark to try and find anything, but there had been sightings of the tree lobster over the years. These sightings were always of dead bugs, so there wasn’t much hope in finding any of them alive. Since Ball’s Pyramid is only 13 miles away from Lord Howe Island, the scientists decided that they couldn’t risk leaving without looking for the infamous tree lobster.
What did they find up on Ball’s Pyramid? Click ‘Next’ to find out the strange results!
Only Crickets Were Found
These scientists were not climbers, so it was a bit difficult for them to try and scale the rock. They made it up to 500 feet, but all they found were crickets. There was nothing that would suggest that there would be any of the extinct stick bugs on the rock.
While they were disappointed, they knew not to get their hopes up. There was hardly any vegetation on this island, and it was practically a miracle that crickets had even survived. When they started scaling down the rock, that’s when something stood out to them. There was a bit of water run off that they could see on the rock, and it looked like it led to a lush plant.
You won’t believe what the scientists find as they edge closer. Click ‘Next’ to read about it.
The Lone Melaleuca Bush
When the scientists got closer to what looked to be a green plant, they found a lone melaleuca bush. The bush was wedged into the rock and went back several feet. While it wasn’t a huge bush, it could potentially support a small grouping of the extinct tree lobsters.
Things got really interested when they decided to look underneath the bush. What they found was shocking because there were large droppings from some kind of animal. The scientists wondered what animal would have been making those droppings. Since it had to be a lot bigger than crickets, the scientists knew there was a good chance that there was some alive tree lobsters after all.
Did the scientists find the elusive tree lobster? Click ‘Next’ to see what happens!
Finding the bugs isn’t as easy as it seems. The scientists had to wait until night fall to find the bugs. Because these insects are nocturnal, they went back and got their gear that they needed. Flashlights and cameras were brought back with them, and they convinced a local ranger to make the climb.
Climbing Ball’s Pyramid in the daytime is already dangerous, so they were literally risking their lives by climbing it at night. However, these scientists believed in their calling so much that they did not let it sway them.
Would their climb be in vain? Click ‘Next’ to find out what happens!
Finding the Last Survivors
The climb was treacherous, but it was also rewarding. When the two got up to the lush plant, they saw exactly what they needed. Among the green leaves were two very large stick bugs. It was the tree lobsters, and they were alive! It got even better when they looked down below the plant.
Slithering in the wet mud were two more of the tree lobsters. In fact, there were even more that were spread out in this small area. Carefully stepping around and counting the tree lobsters, they found 24 when it was all said and done. These insects were living in an area of 20 by 100 feet. It was truly a miracle.
How did the bugs get over 13 miles to their new destination? Click ‘Next’ to find out!
No One Knows
The crazy thing about finding this bug is that it had disappeared for 80 years. It was considered to be completely extinct, and it really was on Lord Howe Island. The scientists had no idea how any of the tree lobsters would have made it to Ball’s Pyramid. For so many to be living on just one plant is astonishing, and it was a miracle that they were found.
There have been a few hypotheses on how the bugs made it over to the island, but the real reason is never going to be found out. Scientists speculated that the bugs may have tagged along on some birds or with some fishermen. However they got over is amazing.
Now that they’ve been found, what can be done to help them? Click ‘Next’ to see what they had to do.
Two Years and Lost Hope
The journey didn’t end there. Scientists everywhere were in an uproar over finding these insects, and many of them wanted to protect them and keep them safe. With just 24 of the stick bugs, the Australian scientists spent two years making their case for starting a breeding program.
Every time others went back, the 24 still remained. There were no other stick bugs on Ball’s Pyramid. Because of this, they wanted to breed them and help their numbers grow. It wouldn’t be easy, but they argued that the species diversity on this planet was important. Studies and meetings were run for the next two years to see if the insects would survive being moved off of the island. Finally, the Australian government agreed to allow for four of the bugs to be used in a breeding program.
Did they take too long to try and save these insects? Click ‘Next’ to read the tragedy that happens!
Just around the time that the government had made up their mind, there was a large rockslide on Ball’s Pyramid. This was right around Valentine’s Day in 2003, and everyone had feared the worst. The scientists were distressed that the species may have been wiped out completely because of the rock slide.
They hoped for the best but feared for the worst. When they got back up to the bush, their minds were put at ease once again. All of the insects had survived and were still eating away at their plant. The scientists grabbed one male and one female to take back and start the breeding program.
You won’t believe what happens to the first breeding pair. Click ‘Next’ to find out the shocking truth.
A Tragedy Happens
One pair of the breeding insects was given to a private breeder in Sydney, Australia that was known for his breeding of stick bugs. It seemed to be going well with him, and he had a lot of experience with bugs that were similar.
Unfortunately, it took a turn for the worse. Just two weeks after he had received the tree lobsters they died. No one knew why that had happened, but it appeared that maybe moving these bugs off of Ball’s Pyramid wasn’t such a good idea.
Would this be the end of hope for breeding? Click ‘Next’ to see what they do with the other pair!
Adam and Eve
The second pair was given to Patrick Honan at the Melbourne Zoo. He was a part of the breeding group at the zoo. Everything was looking to be going very well. They named the female Eve and the male Adam. Eve even started laying eggs.
Things took another turn for the worse when Eve got really sick. Patrick worked with her to try and rehab her, but it looked like she was going to die. She was sick for a month, and Patrick was trying everything he could to make sure she survived. The bug was curled up in his hand and not moving, so he knew he didn’t have much time left. He decided to try giving her calcium with a bit of nectar, and drop by drop he fed it to the female bug. In just a few short hours, Eve was okay again and up walking around. 30 of her eggs turned out to be fertile, and the breeding process began. In 2008, their breeding had skyrocketed. They had 11,376 eggs and 700 adults.
You won’t believe the behavior these insects exhibit. Click ‘Next’ to see what they do with each other!
The Pairing Bugs
One really cool thing about these tree lobsters is they pair off with each other. Most insects mate and then go off and do their own thing, but it looks like the tree lobsters are a bit more intelligent. The insects actually go off with each other in pairs.
The males are very protective of the females. When they sleep at night, the males lay three of their legs over on top of the female to keep her out of harm’s way. This is far from the norm of insects, so it has made scientists even more excited about their rescue.
What happens next to these bugs? Click ‘Next’ to see what might happen to them now.
The Next Step
Everyone is asking what the next step for these bugs are. Obviously, they cannot live on Ball’s Pyramid forever. It doesn’t have the plant life to keep these bugs alive. The tree lobsters are doing great at the zoo, but they can’t live there for forever either. Scientists’ ultimate goal is to rehab these bugs and reintroduce them back to their environment on Lord Howe Island
Unfortunately, there are still an abundance of the black rats on Lord Howe Island today. To allow the bugs to thrive, the rats would need to be taken off of the island. However, the residents aren’t too thrilled with the thought of having such a huge bug put back onto their island. None of them have lived with these bugs, so they aren’t too excited to have them back. A lot remains up in the air because of the residents that live on the island.
Click ‘Next’ to see what is really going to happen to the bugs now that they are large in numbers.
Hope for the Bugs
Regardless of the residents wanting or not wanting the bugs on their island, the Melbourne Museum is still trying. They constantly put out different photos and videos of the bugs to try and make them look cuter. In all reality, the tree lobsters aren’t very cute bugs, so there is going to have to be a lot done to make them more marketable.
Their latest video shows a baby hatching from its egg. The babies of the tree lobsters are a bright green and almost look like a praying mantis. However, the bug is still huge as a baby! We can’t say that we would necessarily want to chance these big guys crawling around our house either. No matter what, these bugs now have a lot of hope. Their numbers are large and they are no longer extinct or endangered. It is safe to say that the two Australian scientists truly saved this species of insect.