Only five people have ever seen the phasmid -- a shiny, 12cm-long, cigar-shaped stick insect and fat as a finger -- in its natural habitat, a tiny shrub high up on an isolated pillar of rock jutting out of the Pacific Ocean. \nThought to be extinct for 80 years, scientists in Australia are currently undertaking an important biodiversity project to save the creature, the world's rarest insect. \nUntil the beginning of the 20th century, it had lived in large numbers on the tiny Lord Howe island, 700km north east of Sydney and is known as the Lord Howe Island land lobster. \nBut in 1918 disaster struck when the wreck of a supply vessel, the Makambo, brought rats to the island. Within a few years, the rats had eaten the island's entire land lobster population, and for eight decades it was believed the insect was extinct. \nThen in 1964, a rock climber making an unsuccessful attempt to scale the 560m high Ball's Pyramid sea-stack (the highest in the world) 19km off Lord Howe found a dead phasmid on a ledge. \nAlthough the peak was successfully climbed in 1965, it wasn't until 2001 that two scientists with rock climbing skills went searching for the elusive nocturnal creature. \nThey positively identified several of them scurrying away into the eroded rocks and in 2002, about two dozen of them were found to have colonized a single shrub sticking out of the cliffs on the same part of the spire. \nHow or when the phasmids reached Ball's Pyramid (geologically younger than Lord Howe and never connected to it) is unclear, but expert opinion is some of their eggs were carried there by a strong prevailing wind to land on the one tiny part of the rock capable of supporting a the same species of melaleuca bush that they favored on Lord Howe Island itself. \nIn 2003, the conservation effort got well and truly underway when two pairs were caught and taken to Australia -- one to the Sydney laboratory of entomologist Stephen Fellenberg and the other to Melbourne Zoo. \nUnfortunately they proved difficult to breed in captivity, with both the original couples dying soon after being transplanted from their niche, but not before mating and laying dozens of slow hatching eggs. \nToday, Fellenberg's laboratory has a count of 29 slow hatching eggs but no living phasmids, while Melbourne Zoo has managed to breed 18 nymphs (young adults) and about 100 unhatched eggs. \n"We wanted to breed them in their thousands and then restore the species to Lord Howe Island," said Fellenberg, who says the program is in urgent need of private funding. \nDavid Priddel, one of the researchers who first found the living phasmids on the ocean spire and took part in their collection, said, "If we can breed them up and release them back to Lord Howe the survival of the rarest insect on earth, and the one with the smallest known habitat, will be assured." \nBall's Pyramid is now off limits to all but scientists with special permits (and rock climbing skills) to minimize any inadvertent damage to the phasmid outpost. \n"Whether you think they look beautiful or ugly, the fact is that they are part of the web of life at a critical moment when species are become extinct all over the world," Fellenberg said. \n"Bringing them back from the brink is a trust we have to accept," he added.
The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has fully vaccinated 90 percent of its eligible adult population within just seven days, the Bhutanese Ministry of Health said on Tuesday. The tiny country, wedged between India and China and home to nearly 800,000 people, began giving out second doses on Tuesday last week in a mass drive that has been hailed by the UN Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) as “arguably the fastest vaccination campaign to be executed during a pandemic.” Bhutan grabbed headlines in April when its government said it had inoculated about the same percentage of eligible adults with the first dose
African nations should build capacity to produce vaccines on the continent and work with pharmaceutical companies to ensure that the raw materials needed to produce the inoculations are available, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said. While a waiver on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights that is being discussed at the WTO is seen as a way to improve the supply of COVID-19 vaccines to the world’s least inoculated continent, Okonjo-Iweala said that only a handful of African countries have the capacity to produce the life-saving drugs. “There [are] a handful of countries — maybe Tunisia, Morocco to some extent,
For almost 500 years, the arch that connects the largest Gothic cathedral in the world with its Renaissance sacristy has offered visitors a sumptuous, if little glimpsed — and even less studied — vision of religious bounty. The 68 beautifully carved plates of food that adorn the archway in Seville’s cathedral offer rather more than bread and wine. There are pigs’ trotters and wild strawberries, aubergines, clams and oysters. There are peaches, radishes, a skinned hare with a knife by its side, a squirrel served on a bed of hazelnuts and a plate of lemons across which a small snake slithers. There
‘LIBERATE HONG KONG’: The prosecution argued that the slogan was in the tradition of rallying cries for secession dating back to the Qin and Qing dynasties Three Hong Kong judges are to rule tomorrow whether the protest slogan: “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our Times” is a call for secession when they deliver a verdict on charges against a man arrested at a demonstration last year. The landmark ruling could have long-term implications for how a Beijing-imposed National Security Law against secession, terrorism, subversion and collusion with foreign forces reshapes the territory’s common law traditions, some legal scholars say. Democracy advocates say that a ruling to outlaw the slogan would tighten limits on free speech. The slogan was last year chanted during democracy protests, posted online, scrawled on walls,