The Lord Howe Island Stick-insect (Dryococelus australis) was formerly abundant on Lord Howe Island, Australia, but was extirpated by Black Rats (Rattus rattus) in the 1920s. The species was thought to be extinct, until freshly dead remains were found by climbers on Balls Pyramid during the 1960s. In February 2001, a survey of Balls Pyramid led to the discovery of a small population of D. australis on a precipitous terrace 65 m above sea level. Two adults and one nymph (all females) were located feeding on an endemic tea-tree (Melaleuca howeana). An accumulation of plant debris at the base of the shrub, kept moist by water seepage, provided the insects with damp hollows suitable for use as daytime refugia. All evidence indicated that the species was confined to this single small terrace. A second survey, in March 2002, located a total of 24 D. australis. Twelve individuals were in the same shrub as that occupied the previous year, and 12 were dispersed among five nearby, smaller shrubs. Ten individuals were able to be sexed – eight females and two males. A number of threats to the population of D. australis on Balls Pyramid are identified and several management actions are proposed to ensure the conservation of the species.
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Priddel, D., Carlile, N., Humphrey, M. et al. Rediscovery of the ‘extinct’ Lord Howe Island stick-insect (Dryococelus australis (Montrouzier)) (Phasmatodea) and recommendations for its conservation. Biodiversity and Conservation 12, 1391–1403 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1023625710011