When most of us think of a South Pacific island, we think of posh vacation resorts and fun on the beach. But not all islands in the South Pacific are so inviting. Here's a South Pacific island that rises out of the sea like a medieval castle. It is actually what's left of an ancient volcano; not exactly a place you would expect to be teaming with life.
But you would be wrong. This is Ball's Pyramid and it has been hiding a secret for a long time.
Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there lived a large, lanky bug. An island named Lord Howe island located in the South Pacific was the home of this unique insect. When European settlers decided to make Lord Howe's island their home, they named the bug "tree lobster" because it reminded them of the seafood delicacy they loved. Classified as a type of stick bug, the tree lobsters sported a slick, black exoskeleton and could grow to a length of 12 centimeters.
Then it happened. In 1918, a ship wrecked on the island's rocky coast. It could be repaired, but the damage it caused was devastating. You see, there were rats stowed away on board the ship. Some of them escaped, ranging out across the island. Since there were no natural predators to stop them, the rats were free to be fruitful and multiply. This they did, thriving on a diet of delicious tree lobsters.
In a short two years, tree lobsters were no more to be found on Lord Howe's island. At least, that's what everyone thought...
Enter scientists David Priddel and Nicholas Carlile. In 2001, these two scientists and their assistants decided to investigate these rumors by visiting Ball's Pyramid. The team climbed the island's rocky cliffs, both at day and at night, since the tree lobster is nocturnal. Their efforts paid off when they found 24 living tree lobsters huddled around a stubby bush. According to Carlile, the team felt like they had stumbled into a "Jurassic Park" time period when bugs were the kings of the world.
After much discussion, it was decided that the scientists would take four of the tree lobsters - two males and two females - with them when they left Ball's Pyramid to return to Australia. One of the pair did not survive, but the couple that found their way to Melbourne Zoo, were going strong. Nicknamed "Adam" and "Eve", it didn't take long for them to start a family. Eve began to lay eggs. It was touch and go for a while when Eve fell ill, but she recovered and the tree lobster population exploded.
While studying the tree lobsters. scientists noticed a surprising habit. Unlike most bugs, tree lobsters prefer to pair with one mate, even snuggling down with their mating partner when sleeping.
By 2008, the Melbourne Zoo sported over 700 adult tree lobsters and an impressive 11,000 eggs.
They may not be the best looking creature, but there is hope that they'll find a way to return to their natural habitat.