skip to content

Dryococelus australis, Lord Howe Island Walkingstick

Photo of a Lord Howe Island Walkingstick

The Lord Howe Island Walkingstick (Dryococelus australis) does not have a very extraordinary lifestyle. Once relatively widespread on Lord Howe’s Island located off the coast of eastern Austrailia it was believed to have been driven extinct by introduced rats. Recently a small population of approximately 20 individuals has been discovered living on one tree towards the highest peak of the island. Though there is not anything exceptionally extraordinary about its life cycle the ecosystem in which it inhabits was very sensitive to the invasive rats, and the walkingsticks which spend day hours on our near the ground were easy prey. The re-discovery of the specie has created high demand by specialty insect collectors who will pay thousands of dollars for an intact specimen.

The Colophon Stag beetles (Family Lucanidae, Genus Colophon) are endemic to high altitude mountain tops of western South Africa. These beetles originated from the same species which was separated by glaciers during the last ice age. Since this time that species have speciated into many similar species, each one inhabiting a specific mountain top. These beetles are very valuable to systematists as they show a clear evolutionary path. These beetles are highly sought after, and are very valuable to collectors. A search on the internet brings up price lists that collectors are willing to pay for pristine specimens, with some fetching over $10,000. Local governments have increased pressure on poachers but it is unknown if this alone will be enough to save them, as studies have indicated that the beetles are running out of habitat due to global warming.

Birdwing butterflies, family Pompillidae, are found in many rainforest habitats, often closely isolated geographically. Because these are the largest butterflies in the world collector demand for them is great. Up until recently over collecting was threatening their populations, but recent government interaction has helped create butterfly farming programs in which natives are encouraged to raise butterflies as a source of income as well as a way to bolster endemic populations. Though these butterflies are still considered endangered in some areas their populations are definitely on the upswing due to these programs.


Written by: Tad Yankoski, 2004

Image credit: Stephen John Fellenberg