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How a tiny group of insects escaped extinction by hiding in a bush for 80 years

‘It’s not often that you get to see something that has disappeared forever.’

First taxonomised by Europeans exploring the seas between New Zealand and Australia in 1885, the Lord Howe Island stick insect (also known as the ‘tree lobster’) was presumed extinct around 1920 after predatory rats were introduced to the only small island it was known to inhabit. Slow, wingless and up to six inches in length, it was easy prey for the new invasive species. However, some 80 years later in 2001, a team of scientists made a startling discovery when they found several of the insects living in a single bush during an excursion at Ball’s Pyramid – a largely barren sea stack roughly 14 miles from Lord Howe Island. Marvellously recounted using rotoscope animation, Sticky is the story of this amazing discovery and the successful captive breeding programme that followed at Melbourne Zoo. While enchanting and uplifting, the Australian animator Jillie Rose’s film is also a mournful reflection on the vast number of extinctions that humans have caused over the past few hundred years.

Director: Jilli Rose

Producer: Katrina Mazurek

5 May 2017

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