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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Extracts from Professor Newton’s Address to the Biological Section of the British Association (Manchester, 1887)

Extracts from Professor Newton’s Address to the Biological Section of the British Association (Manchester, 1887).

“When on a former occasion (at Glasgow in 1876) I had the honour of addressing a Department of this Section, I pointed out the enormous changes that were swiftly and inevitably coming upon the fauna of many of our colonies. The fears I then expressed have been fully realized. I am told by Sir Walter Buller that in New Zealand one may now live for weeks and months without seeing a single example of its indigenous birds, all of which, in the more settled districts, have been supplanted by the aliens that have been imported; while further inland these last are daily extending their range at the cost of the endemic forms. A letter I have lately received from Sir James Hector wholly confirms this statement, and I would ask you to bear in mind that these indigenous species are, with scarcely an exception, peculiar to that country, and, from every scientific point of view, of the most instructive character. They supply a link with the past that once lost can never be recovered. It is therefore incumbent upon us to know all we can about them before they vanish…… The forms that we are allowing to be killed off, being almost without exception ancient forms, are just those that will teach us more of the way in which life has spread over the globe than any other recent forms; and for the sake of posterity, as well as to escape its reproach, we ought to learn all we can about them before they go hence and are no more seen…… One thing to guard against is the presumption that the fauna originated within its present area, and has been always contained therein. Thus, I take it, that the fauna which characterizes the New-Zealand Region—for I follow Professor Huxley in holding that a Region it is fully entitled to be called—is the comparatively-little changed relic and representative of an early fauna of much wider range.”