When I see titles like this on the CBCA Eve Pownall list I always do a little inward groan.
After all, why would I want to read a book about stick insects?
But then I actually take the time to read them and I’m blown away by the amazing natural world around us and the people who choose to work in these areas.
Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect is one of those unbelievable but true stories about a near extinct insect brought back from the brink by a group of passionate, dedicated scientists.
The story is easy to read and surprisingly engaging. We follow the phasmid through its life cycle and life on Lord Howe Island. We learn about the arrival of rats via the early settlers’ boats – a fast breeding predator of the phasmid that had wiped it out completely by 1930.
That is, until….a small group of scientists were climbing nearby Balls Pyramid in 2001 and discovered a small colony of phasmids at home in the crevices of the rock face. At this point there were less than 30 phasmids left in the wild.
This is the part I love the most.
Over the next 15 years this small group of devoted scientists created a program at Melbourne Zoo to breed the phasmids in captivity. This involved all night observations to learn what exactly the phasmid needed to survive and grow.
They now have over 12 000 nymphs and their program is famous around the world. They have had visits from Jane Goodall and Sir David Attenborough and, as of Feb 2016, they have eggs hatching at San Diego Zoo. Called ‘insurance populations’, off shore breeding helps to ensure the survival of the phasmid – more eggs have also been shipped to Bristol Zoo in the U.K. and Toronto Zoo in Canada.
My CBCA shortlist post is here.