Lord Howe Island Phasmid - Dryococelus australis
New South Wales, Threatened Species Day Fact Sheet
Saving an Australian Giant!
The Lord Howe Island Phasmid is a critically endangered giant flightless stick insect. Big enough to cover the human hand, it has been given a number of common names, including the land lobster and the walking sausage. Before 1918, the Phasmid was found in large numbers on Lord Howe Island. The population seriously declined after the introduction of black rats onto the island, and by 1935 they were considered rare, and possibly extinct.
In the 1960s, a survey found three dead Phasmids on a small volcanic rock called Balls Pyramid, 23 kilometres south-east of Lord Howe Island. In February 2001, a team of intrepid scientists climbed 100 metres up a cliff face in the middle of the night in search of the mysterious species and found three live Phasmids and two eggs. No other living specimens have ever been found and it is estimated that there are less than 10 individuals left, occupying an area of less than half a square kilometre.
The Phasmid has different life stages which require various types of habitat. It is thought that they need Melaleuca, or tea tree shrubs for adults and nymphs to feed on, rock-crevices for protection during the day, and a suitable surface underneath the shrubs where the eggs can hatch.
The three living specimens that have been found were all feeding on the same bush. The vegetation on Balls Pyramid is extremely sparse, and may not be their ideal habitat. It is thought that their ideal habitat is most likely the moist forests of Lord Howe Island.
The Phasmid disappeared rapidly from Lord Howe Island after the introduction of Black Rats. If rats were ever introduced onto Balls Pyramid, the effect on the Phasmid could be disastrous. Insect collectors, human disturbance, weed invasion, and natural events such as fire or severe storms also threaten the fragile population.
The Threatened Species Network has funded a number of community grant projects through the Natural Heritage Trust that are designed to restore important habitat for a suite of the island's threatened species. A Lord Howe Island Recovery Team is currently being formed to help address a number of threatened species issues on the island and surrounding areas. It is hoped that measures put in place, such as a rat control program, will continue to benefit the island's flora and fauna, as well as potentially enabling the re-introduction of the Phasmid.
You can help protect the Lord Howe Island Phasmid and other threatened NSW species by:
- taking care when visiting national parks to keep your impact to a minimum;
- protecting the habitat of all our native species including the Lord Howe Island Phasmid; and
- supporting local efforts to conserve threatened species in your area by joining a local conservation, 'friends' or Bushcare group or by volunteering for Conservation Volunteers Australia.
For more information on helping threatened species in New South Wales, contact the Threatened Species Network Coordinator:
Telephone: 02 8202 1222
You can also find out more information about Australia's threatened species by calling the Department of the Environment and Heritage's Community Information Unit on free call 1800 803 772 or by visiting the Department of the Environment and Heritage threatened species web site at: www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened
The Nightcap Oak is a critically endangered rainforest tree found in northern NSW which grows up to 40 metres high. It occurs over an area less than 10 square kilometres. There are less than 90 mature individuals in existence, and they are found at one location within one catchment of the Nightcap Range.
The area where it is found has a unique geological history, and for millions of years it has remained a haven for rainforest plants and animals in times of drought. The Nightcap Oak may have evolutionary links to plants that were alive 70 million years ago.
The Nightcap Oak is extremely vulnerable to fire or any other kind of disturbance such as road construction or forest activities.