20/06/2018

Rare stick insects make couple’s silver wedding a great day

As silver wedding anniversary gifts go it was, to say the least, unusual – but Mark and Glenda Willcox were thrilled.

Their eldest daughter Beth had arranged to have a pair of the rarest insects in the world at Bristol Zoo Gardens named after them.

But the couple from Bristol didn’t know anything about it until they arrived at the Zoo with Beth on a visit to mark their 25th anniversary.

She had managed to keep it a secret until they stepped through the doors of the Zoo’s Bug World and approached the display of Lord Howe island stick insects.

On the wall above the stick insects enclosure was a Silver Wedding Anniversary banner and the words Mark and Glenda 1993 were painted on a viewing window.

Beth who has been a volunteer at Bristol Zoo for the three years, also arranged for a fund raising drive to help the special insects

Swimming teacher Beth asked all her parents’ friends and relatives to make a donation rather than sending them cards and gifts. As a result she raised more than £150.

She said: “I wanted to do something special related to mum and dad’s passion for animals and conservation.  

“They never do anything for their anniversaries so I thought ‘I’m going to change that this year.’

“I have always been interested in the Lord Howe stick insects’ story and I thought it would be great if I could raise some money for them.”

Mark and Glenda, who live in Coombe Dingle, were delighted when they were told about the stick insects being named after them which came appropriately during National Insect Week.

The couple who have a younger daughter, 13-year-old Abbey, were presented with an adoption certificate and a book about stick insects.

Fencer Mark said: “It’s really great, we’re really pleased. I have always been interested in the natural world from the time I was a lad going to Blaise Castle and wandering around.”

His wife said their annual holidays often centre around wildlife and they were hoping to visit Australia next.

Glenda, an executive assistant at Bristol University, said: “Perhaps we can go to see some of the stick insects in the wild while we are there.”

Lord Howe island which is just off the East Coast of Australia, was home to the stick insects until 1920, when a ship landed and allowed a large population of black rats ashore which destroyed the population.

After 80 years of being presumed extinct, in 2001 researchers found 24 stick insects were found surviving on a single bush on a nearby island.

Despite the odds stacked against them, this incredible Insect has managed to survive until now.

The researchers returned to the island in 2003, collected two breeding pairs of the insects and brought them over to Australia.

But they proved very difficult to breed so eggs were sent to Bristol Zoo, San Diego Zoo and Toronto Zoo.

To date only Bristol Zoo has managed to breed a second generation of stick insects and last year became the only zoo outside of Australia to breed a third.

Last week the Zoo received a silver award from the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) annual conference in Devon for the breeding and management of Lord Howe Island stick insects.

If you would like to help support the work to save Lord Howe island stick insects please click here.

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