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Insects stick to life at Melbourne Zoo

AAP logoAAP 28/12/2016 Rachel Gray

After almost being eaten out of existence by rats, the Lord Howe Island stick insect has made a comeback.

For 80 years, people thought the insect was extinct until scientists found three wobbling around on a sea stack near their island home in 2001.

Two years later, scientists decided to bring the insects back from the brink of extinction by sending two to Melbourne and two to a private breeder in Sydney.

One couple, named Adam and Eve, arrived at Melbourne Zoo in 2003 and with a life-span of only two years, went on to breed 13 generations of nymphs.

"We're trying to get people to love the Lord Howe Island stick insect a little bit more," invertebrate keeper Rohan Cleave told AAP during the unveiling of a new exhibit at Melbourne Zoo.

The exhibit, complete with a 2.4 metre stick insect sculpture, teaches children it is never too late to save a species.

Phoenix Price, 6, does not think his school friends in Queensland have ever seen a Lord Howe Island stick insect.

"When I touched the leg, it was slimy and it shook everywhere" Phoenix told AAP of his encounter with the insect on Thursday.

Mr Cleave says the Melbourne Zoo team knew they had only one chance to save the Lord Howe Island stick insect when Adam and Eve arrived.

"If insects disappear, everything else will disappear," he said of the bugs' important role in the food chain as food for birds.

Today there are more than 1000 Lord Howe Island stick insects thriving in captivity in zoos and museums in Australia, the US, England and on Lord Howe Island.

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