A daring Australian Museum expedition to Lord Howe Island has succeeded in its search for the rare and elusive Lord Howe Island Phasmid.


In February 2017, Australian Museum scientists embarked on an expedition to benchmark native and introduced animal populations on Lord Howe Island. Nestled on the Tasman seas between Australia and New Zealand, this volcanic remnant has a unique ecosystem that’s been largely preserved, rivalling that of the world-famous Galapagos archipelago.

Paul Flemons on Balls Pyramid
March 2017. An Australian Museum (AM) team of climbers and scientists ascended Balls Pyramid, the tallest volcanic stack in the world, to retrieve a live specimen of one of the world’s rarest insects. The female Lord Howe Island stick insect or phasmid (Dryococelus australis) – named “Vanessa” after the climber who found it – will join a captive breeding program at Melbourne Zoo designed to bring the species back from the brink of extinction. Formerly endemic to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Lord Howe Island, the phasmid was declared extinct in 1986, before it was rediscovered in the early 2000s on the nearby Balls Pyramid. Image: Tom Bannigan
© Australian Museum


AMRI scientists documented native flora and fauna, exhumed three whale skeletons, and scaled the sheer cliff faces of the remote Balls Pyramid in search of further specimens of the extremely rare LHI Phasmid.

Now, thanks to the daring efforts of the expedition team, a new female Phasmid has been recovered from Balls Pyramid, adding genetic diversity to a breeding program at Melbourne Zoo, and in doing so increasing the chances of survival, and eventual reintroduction of this rare insect species to its native home on Lord Howe Island.