Cockroach killers face fine of $1.2m

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 February, 2004, 12:00am

They might be disgusting creepy-crawlies, but squashing a rare species of Australian cockroach will now attract a A$200,000 (HK$1.22 million) fine or a prison sentence.

The wood-eating cockroach, which is found on just two tiny islands in the South Pacific, was listed yesterday as an endangered species.

The move comes amid fears that the bug could face extinction unless more is done to protect it.

Wood-eating cockroaches were once common on Lord Howe island, a World Heritage site 1,000km northeast of Sydney administered by Australia.

But after rats were accidentally introduced to the island in 1918, the insects were virtually wiped out.

About 300 of the cockroaches survive on rat-free Blackburn and Roach islands, two tiny islands off the coast of Lord Howe.

Blackburn island's entire population of the insect is believed to live under a single banyan tree.

Michael Murphy, threatened species officer with the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, said: 'I am not really that keen on cockroaches, but unlike other types of 'roaches they are sort of cute.

'They are also important for the ecosystem as nutrient recyclers and for breaking down leaf litter.'