Humans have caused the extinction of a number of species throughout history. But every now and again, some creatures are gifted 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. But it’s not like anything you’ve ever seen before.
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. It also holds the last surviving members of a very special species.
Ball’s Pyramid is just 13 miles from Lord Howe Island…
When it was discovered by European explorers in the late 1700s, Lord Howe Island was home to a strange creature: these black, armored insects, said to be the the length of a human hand and given the name “tree lobsters.”
But in 1918, black rats that were carried over on ships made it onto the island, and the Lord Howe insects were no more. The last one was seen alive in 1920.
But 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
Around 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 the insects’ numbers while being careful with the tiny colony.
Recently, they were able to capture the birth of a new generation of insects on film, and it was truly a magical moment.
Watching those little things emerge from their egg pods filled my heart with joy. Strange as they are, it’s an absolute miracle they were given a second chance at life!