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Missing bug returns to give hope -

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A rare story of an animal coming back from the brink of extinction is happening right on our


CHRIS UHLMANN, PRESENTER: As more and more species become endangered and at risk of extinction it's
not often that there's a good news story about a creature coming back from the brink. But that's
what's happened on remote Lord Howe Island, 700 kilometres north-east of Sydney. Tracy Bowden
travelled to the World Heritage listed island to file this report.

TRACY BOWDEN, REPORTER: For Lord Howe Island's World Heritage manager Hank Bower, these are
exciting times. He's showing me a creature that was thought to be extinct. Better still, it's once
again breeding at its original home.

And that's the little one.

HANK BOWER, LORD HOWE ISLAND WORLD HERITAGE MANAGER: That's the little baby one about six or eight
weeks' old.

TRACY BOWDEN: So when do they turn black?

HANK BOWER: At nearly 12 months.

TRACY BOWDEN: Do they bite?

HANK BOWER: No, they don't bite.

TRACY BOWDEN: I should have asked that earlier! (Laughs).

This is Dryococelus Australis, also known as the phasmid or the land lobster and its story is a
remarkable one.

ROHAN CLEAVE, INVERTEBRATE KEEPER, ZOOS VICTORIA: It's like finding a Tasmania tiger again - the
Thylacinus of the invertebrate world.

TRACY BOWDEN: Lord Howe Island is a treasure trove of flora and fauna. It boasts more than 60
species of unique flowering plants. One of the world's rarest birds, the wood hen, and is home to a
vast array of sea birds.

The island was inscripted on the World Heritage list in 1981, but even the creatures living in this
pristine, isolated spot have felt the impact of perils from afar.

Feral animals have wreaked havoc on Lord Howe over the years, especially rats. The black rat
arrived in the island back in 1918 when a supply ship ran aground off the coast. They led to the
extinction of five different species of bird and several types of beetle. It was also thought the
rat had killed off a creature that's found nowhere else on Earth.

Once the rats moved in, the phasmid population plummeted and locals were convinced they were gone
for good. Then after no sightings for close to a century, in 2001 a phasmid skeleton was found here
at Balls Pyramid, 23 kilometres to the south-east. This stark landmark is part of the same volcano
responsible for the formation of Lord Howe. Next, an expedition was sent to take a closer look.

DEAN HISCOX, FORMER RANGER/TOUR OPERATOR: Accessing these areas was really quite gnarly. You've got
a really steep, potentially dangerous environment where we were going across this vertical face. We
had breakers coming in and lapping up against our feet.

TRACY BOWDEN: Ranger Dean Hiscox and his team searched for two days without success. Then, late one
night, an unexpected surprise.

DEAN HISCOX: We were just gob-smacked to actually encounter these prehistoric looking insects on a
couple of big Melaleuca bushes on a ledge up on the face of the pyramid. Just really stuff you
don't forget.

TRACY BOWDEN: The precious cargo was transported back to Lord Howe Island, then a pair of phasmids
was sent to Melbourne Zoo.

ROHAN CLEAVE: It has been quite stressful at times, particularly when they first come. Nothing was
known about their biology, their behaviour, what they ate and things like that.

TRACY BOWDEN: The zoo breeding program run by Rohan Cleave has been a huge success.

ROHAN CLEAVE: We've hatched over 9,100 animals here at Melbourne Zoo alone. We've also sent eggs to
other institutions to private breeders to maintain a genetic diversity and population as much as
possible. This is such a romantic story of something that has been lost for over 80 years and being
rediscovered and the significance of that alone is massive.

HANK BOWER: This is their home. They're a part of the ecology here. They play an important role in
nutrient cycling and they're also a food item for other native animals out there.

TRACY BOWDEN: What's now causing real excitement on Lord Howe Island is that with help from the
team at Melbourne Zoo they've finally managed to successfully breed phasmids back here, but it's
early days.

HANK BOWER: We're waiting to see if they actually reach adulthood. We've been a little bit cautious
about sending the message out until we know they're definitely gonna survive.

TRACY BOWDEN: The ultimate aim is to return the phasmid to the wild on Lord Howe Island, but first
the rats which threatened the insects in the first place need to be eradicated. A rodent
eradication program has been planned, but it's a complex multimillion-dollar exercise. With
approval and funding still to come, a start date is at least two to three years' away.

HANK BOWER: ... and then hopefully one day we can show them where they really should belong,
somewhere out there.

CHRIS UHLMANN: I'm sure I saw that creature in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The intrepid Tracy Bowden
with that report.