We like to bring you theÂ occasionalÂ largeÂ invertebrate on this blog. And even a hugeÂ vertebrate now and then. But here’s a big insect with a story to tell. And it’s a story that hasn’t – quite – ended yet.
Lord Howe Island stick insect (Dryococelus australis)
The Lord Howe Island Stick Insect, or Tree Lobster,Â Dryococelus australis, is one of the largest insect species in the world. It is a flightless phasmid that lives on trees in the isolated Lord Howe Island chain off theÂ AustralianÂ coast. These great creatures were once common enough to be used regularly as fishing bait, but in 1918 a supply ship ran aground there and accidentally introduced the black rat. By 1920 the tree lobster was thought to be extinct, a casualty of the voracious rats which cut a swathe through the native island ecosystem. Continue reading
Regular readers will remember the anguish with which celebrities and commoners alike rallied round the cause of poor old introduced hedgehogs in Scotland, hard-pressed by conservationists bent on their eradication.
Now an Australian comparison has arisen. Let’s see if Sir Paul McCartney steps forward once more, in defence of the cane toad! Yes, this deeply unpleasant creature, introduced in 1935 and wreaking havoc ever since, is the object of extraordinary hatred by, it seems, all Australians. No Australian societies exist to stand up for the rights of cane toads, and nobody is offered any bounty to cane toad rescuers. Instead, we get the robust Aussie response of “Not In My Backyard Day”, which is sponsored by the Northern Territory government. Continue reading
Those crazy Australians are poisoning trees to open up sea views! The Ranger is amazed that this story needed to come from as far afield as Sydney. In his experience, this sort of thing is going on all the time. And he should know – working on the Isle of Wight where sea views are highly valued, and trees are highly protected, he can attest from long personal experience to the commonplace nature of this fundamental dispute between trees and humans – and thus, perhaps more obviously, between humans and humans. It’s a great enigma, often articulated by those affected, why people choose to move into an area with many trees in it, and then begin to cut them down. Whilst sometimes a long-standing resident will be the culprit, it seems to be remarkably often that an incomer is the one who starts a program of suble, or not-so-subtle, tree removal. Why, the puzzled neighbours ask, did they move here, with all these trees, if all they want to do is take them down? The Ranger has never satisfactorily explained this phenomenon. It may just be coincidence, but when the culprits are asked the same question, they can never come up with an answer either. Their response, if there is one, usually starts with something along the lines of “I like trees, but…”. So why do they do it? One theory points the finger at the rise of ‘garden makeovers’ and heavy engineering in the shrubbery, supported by retailers hiring and selling more plant and fewer plants. Certainly it seems that we now have the expectation that our gardens should be exactly how we want them, immediately. The idea of working with what already exists, or of waiting for it to develop, seems to be out of favour with most gardeners. Nor may the wishes and aspirations of neighbours be a factor in their considerations. Gardening, today, is perhaps more like home decorating. The downside of removing trees to improve the view, and the usual reason for objections by others, is that trees work in more than one direction as a screen. From outside the garden, the trees screen the buildings, making a nicer view for everyone else. Perhaps a more measured and patient approach would lead to a better environment for us all. EDIT: To get a free desk calender with lots of ‘I like trees but’ quotes on (See! It’s not just the Ranger) visit this site.