Wednesday 15 June 2016

Phasmid by Rohan Cleave and Coral Tulloch

When I see titles like this on the CBCA Eve Pownall list I always do a little inward groan.

After all, why would I want to read a book about stick insects?

But then I actually take the time to read them and I'm blown away by the amazing natural world around us and the people who choose to work in these areas.

Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect is one of those unbelievable but true stories about a near extinct insect brought back from the brink by a group of passionate, dedicated scientists.

The story is easy to read and surprisingly engaging. We follow the phasmid through its life cycle and life on Lord Howe Island. We learn about the arrival of rats via the early settlers' boats - a fast breeding predator of the phasmid that had wiped it out completely by 1930.

That is, until....a small group of scientists were climbing nearby Balls Pyramid in 2001 and discovered a small colony of phasmids at home in the crevices of the rock face. At this point there were less than 30 phasmids left in the wild.

This is the part I love the most.

Over the next 15 years this small group of devoted scientists created a program at Melbourne Zoo to breed the phasmids in captivity. This involved all night observations to learn what exactly the phasmid needed to survive and grow.

They now have over 12 000 nymphs and their program is famous around the world. They have had visits from Jane Goodall and Sir David Attenborough and, as of Feb 2016, they have eggs hatching at San Diego Zoo. Called 'insurance populations', off shore breeding helps to ensure the survival of the phasmid - more eggs have also been shipped to Bristol Zoo in the U.K. and Toronto Zoo in Canada.

The final four pages of the book contains stacks of interesting detailed information about the phasmids and the breeding program. 

Plans are underway to eradicate all the rats and mice from Lord Howe Island in the hope of establishing a phasmid community back on the island in the future.

Author, Rohan Cleave is an invertebrate keeper at Melbourne Zoo. He hopes that by highlighting the plight of one small animal at risk, he can get children interested in and concerned about the well being of all wildlife.

Illustrator Coral Tulloch, who won the CBCA Eve Pownall award with Alison Lester for their book, One Small Island, once again creates beautiful water colour landscapes as well as up close looks at the phasmid.

Produced by the CSIRO, Phasmid is a fascinating, hopeful look at environmental issues for young readers.

My CBCA shortlist post is here.


  1. I agree with you, insects are not my favourite animals, but what an interesting story.

  2. I must admit that I found the cover intriguing. I have not u until this time been particularly interested in insects in my adulthood but I am thinking that they might be a fascinating subject.

    The account of the breeding program also sounds interesting.

    1. That's what fascinated me the most in the end Brian - the jobs that people do! Working ten years on a breeding program for an almost extinct animal and succeeding! I think that is wonderful.

  3. Ah good thing there's something for everyone- I saw this title on the list and gave a little outward squeal of excitement! I've heard about the phasmid breeding program before, and I was excited to read it, and wanted to make it the first one I read for this category. You've done nothing to lessen my enthusiasm. It looks great.

    1. I knew nothing about this program, but again, another CBCA book has made me do some research into its topic and I am now an avid supporter and fan!

  4. Fascinating! Definitely one for the grandkids!


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