In our time on Earth, humans have caused the extinction of a number of species. However, every now and again, we are blessed with a second chance.
Off the coast of Australia, on a windswept, largely inhospitable spit of jagged rock known as Ball’s Pyramid, a strange and ancient creature has made a startling comeback.
This is Ball’s Pyramid. Discovered by the British Navy in 1778, the peak of this magnificent geological construct reaches 1,844 feet.
While it looks like a dragon’s lair, it’s actually all that remains of an ancient volcano, and it holds the last surviving members of a very special species of animal.
Ball’s Pyramid is just 13 miles from Lord Howe Island, which, when it was discovered by European explorers in the late 1700s, was home to a strange creature. These black-armored insects were said to be the the length of a human hand and were given the name “tree lobsters.”
But in 1918, black rats that had been carried over on ships made it onto the island, and the Lord Howe stick insect was no more. The last one was seen alive in 1920.
But then, in 2001, two Australian scientists, David Priddel and Nicholas Carlile, decided to investigate rumors of stick insect corpses on Ball’s Pyramid.
Patrick Honan/Nick Carlile
About 500 feet up the peak, they found what they were looking for. Gathered around a single bush was a tiny colony of 24 Lord Howe stick insects.
They were just as big as the legends said they were. Some were up to six inches in length, and they are now considered the heaviest flightless stick insect in the world.
“It felt like stepping back into the Jurassic age,” Carlile said, “when insects ruled the world.”
In the years since, conservation authorities have been trying to increase their number while being careful with the tiny colony.
Not long ago, they were able to capture the birth of a new generation on film, and it was truly a magical moment.
Watching those little things emerge from their egg pods actually filled my heart with joy. Strange as they are, it’s an absolute miracle that we’ve been given a second chance to help these creatures.
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