From the Brink of Extinction to the Classroom

The King David School has entered into a partnership with Zoos Victoria in a world first conservation project. From over 100 applications we have been invited to join the fight to save the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect (LHISI).

Presumed extinct for the past 80 years, LHISI were once common on Lord Howe Island. Tragically, a supply ship ran aground there in 1918, releasing rats onto the island. Along with five species of birds, the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect had disappeared by 1930.

Miraculously, they were rediscovered in 2001 by a park ranger while rock climbing on a rocky sea-stack 23km north of Lord Howe Island known as Ball’s Pyramid. This now remains the only known habitat of the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect. There are several theories about how the insects arrived on Ball’s Pyramid.

Concern about the long-term survivability of the species forced Melbourne Zoo and NSW National Park rangers to collect four stick insects from the known population of seventeen. One pair came to Melbourne Zoo and one pair travelled to Sydney. At Melbourne Zoo, the first egg hatched on September 7th 2003 – incidentally this happened to be Threatened Species Day! There are now around 500 insects in captivity at Melbourne Zoo.

The King David School has been offered the extraordinary opportunity to care for some of these individuals at school. We have been supplied with 10 stick insect eggs and it will be our job to rear the nymphs once they hatch, care for them into adulthood and retrieve any eggs which they may lay. Students are also encouraged to monitor the living conditions and make observations of the insects’ behaviour. A record of this information will be regularly sent to Melbourne Zoo to add to their growing body of research into these organisms.

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