Art. XXIX.—Notes on Acclimatisation in New Zealand.
[Read before the Otago Institute, 13th July, 1897.]
It was only natural in a country like New Zealand, with such a limited indigenous fauna, that the settlers should establish acclimatisation societies, and endeavour to introduce the familiar forms of wild life from their native lands; but it is a matter for regret that the zeal of the earlier acclimatisers was greater than their knowledge, and that mistakes were made by them fraught with evil results of a far-reaching and permanent nature. Due care and consideration would have prevented the introduction of several undesirable immigrants, which now, like the poor, are always with us. For example, I remember talking to a gentleman who was then a member of the council of our local society when the first shipment of birds was brought here, and in telling me what they were getting he mentioned the green linnet amongst others that was being imported. Knowing that the greenfinch was often called by that name, I ventured to suggest that it was anything but a suitable bird; but he replied that I was mistaken, and that the bird they were getting was harmless, and a beautiful song-bird. It, alas! proved to be no linnet, but that pest of the farmer, the harsh-voiced greenfinch. Now, though probably the man employed to bring out the birds gave the
gentleman referred to the erroneous information regarding the bird's vocal powers and harmlessness, a little inquiry as to its habits and repute in the Old Country would have made the society hesitate before turning loose such a well-known enemy of the seed-grower.
One result of such mistakes has been to render the acclimatisation societies timid of introducing anything that could be called a “small bird,” as the rabbit has made them afraid of importing anything that will eat grass. These societies have now pretty well become mere piscicultural societies, which make occasional spasmodic efforts to introduce “something to shoot” in the way of game birds. I do not desire to underrate the valuable work they have done in stocking our rivers with splendid fish, and thus adding an additional attraction to life in this colony; but while they did these things they ought not to have left other work undone which would have been more within the scope of their functions than keeping up a supply of fish for the anglers' hooks. Their work should have ended when the trout were successfully established, and had they left the restocking of the rivers to anglers' associations they might have had leisure to devote more of their energies to acclimatisation proper. Of course, the answer is that their main source of revenue is from the fishing licenses, and that without this income they would hardly be able to exist, so I suppose we must accept the situation and be thankful for the good work that they have done. I cannot but think, however, that if the societies were to extend the scope of their operations somewhat they would be more popular, and might increase their roll of members. One duty in which the societies have been lacking is that no attempt has been made, so far as I know, to keep any record of the results of their experiments, which, on the whole, have been conducted in a very haphazard and unsystematic manner.
It would have been impossible to have obtained full or continuous observations of the divers birds and animals that have from time to time been introduced, recording what changes of habit, if any, were induced by their new environment, and also what changes, if any, their introduction brought about in our native flora or fauna; but something might have been done in this direction. Imperfect as such records would have been, I have no doubt but that, had the societies endeavoured to compile them, much interesting information would have been collected and preserved. For example, I remember hearing that many years ago it was almost impossible to grow barley in the Oamaru district, owing to the depredations of a black hairy caterpillar, which attacked the grain when it was swelling by gnawing the juicy stem just under the ear, which was thus caused to fall and
wither. The caterpillar then dropped to the ground, and, climbing up the next stem, repeated his operations. So numerous were they that a field, if attacked, would hardly be worth harvesting. After the starlings became numerous these caterpillars disappeared, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that the Oamaru farmers owe a debt of gratitude to the Acclimatisation Society for their freedom from this scourge—indeed, probably the whole colony owes its continued ability to grow barley to the introduction of the starling, for, though I never heard of the caterpillar referred to behaving in the same manner in any other district, yet if it were the larva of an accidentally introduced insect it would surely have spread; while if it were indigenous it probably would have discovered the new food-supply in other districts also, and, if naturally local, have spread from the same reason.
Now, had our societies authenticated and recorded facts like these they would have preserved evidence of their own usefulness. The errors that have been made remain patent, the good they have done is mostly hidden from sight, and, as my criticism of their doings may have seemed somewhat adverse, I may say that I firmly believe the good done far outweighs the evil. Had they done nothing but introduce the starling they would have done well. I shall give you another instance of the benefits conferred by that bird. Before the starlings became numerous it was no uncommon thing to see English grass wither up in large patches, as though scorched by fire. This was due to the work of two different insects—a crane-fly and an Elater, or click beetle, the larvæ of both of which were addicted to the habit of eating the roots of the grass just under the surface. They were both, I believe, native insects, though there are similar insects with similar habits in Britain; but, as both are still to be found in the colony, their identity or difference could easily be established. English grass was then comparatively limited, and was often greatly damaged by these depredators. I remember, in 1867, visiting a runholder who had a small lawn of English grass laid down in front of his house, which, to my surprise, was covered with toumatukuru bushes, which had been collected from the run. On my asking the reason for this new departure in lawn decoration, he replied, “Oh! it's to keep the hens off. I don't know what has taken them, but I could not keep them off any other way. They were scratching the grass out by the roots even.” Suspecting the cause, I made an examination, and found the grass so full of the beetle grubs that in places one could almost roll it up like a carpet and disclose the larvæ beneath. I showed them to my host, saying, “These are what the hens are after: it is the grubs, not the hens, that are destroying your lawn, and if you keep the
fowls off the grubs are so thick there will be no grass left soon.” Seeing is believing. He was easily convinced, and called a man to remove the scrub he had been at such trouble to gather to keep his best friend at bay. Since the starlings became established I have never observed the grass injured to the extent I have described. To the agency of the starling I attribute the almost total disappearance of the grasshopper and the Cicada in this neighbourhood. When I came here the Town Belt was alive with the former, while the latter were very much more numerous than they are now. I do not know that either of these insects did much harm, though the grasshoppers were sometimes injurious to young turnip-crops. Their disappearance, as well as what I have related about other insects, proves that the introduced birds keep insects in check.
It is impossible in the time at my disposal to deal exhaustively with the subject of acclimatisation, even were I competent to do so, and I shall therefore merely glance at what has been done locally in the past, and throw out a few suggestions as to what might be done in the future. I shall omit all reference to fish-culture, as I have already referred to the success which has crowned the work of the societies in the introduction of trout; and, as the subject of the introduction of sea-fish has been enthusiastically taken up by Mr. G. M. Thomson, I shall not touch on that branch of the subject further than to say that I hope when the marine hatchery is established the experiment of introducing lobsters will be renewed, and that a trial will also be made to acclimatise the edible crab. It may also be well to introduce the good edible variety of the mussel, which is largely cultivated for the market in the south of France, and is not to be despised as an addition to our coastal harvest. It should not be very difficult to transport them.
Oysters were successfully brought out by the Provincial Government in the old days of sailing-ships, so with our present more rapid communication mussels might be carried in safety. The mention of these oysters reminds me of their fate. A small number were landed alive, and as the extensive beds at Foveaux Strait was then unknown the juicy natives were looked upon with peculiar interest. They were put in a small enclosure in the harbour near Portobello, under the care of a local member of the Provincial Council, who, observing one day a stranger in a boat in the vicinity of the oyster-bed, hurried to the spot, and when he got to the shore plainly saw the stranger swallowing an oyster. He called out to him, went for a boat, and when he reached the bed found that the stranger had disappeared and the oysters with him, for there was nothing left but the empty shells. The perpetrator of the
outrage was never discovered. And so ended the only attempt at acclimatisation made by the Otago Provincial Government. Would that the efforts of the Provincial Government of Southland had terminated in a similar manner. It is to them that we are indebted for the presence of the rabbit, which we could well have done without, though bunny is not the unmitigated evil some would have us think. It is true he ruined a number of our runholders, and greatly lessened the stock-carrying capacity of extensive areas of country, but he has afforded employment to large numbers of our population, and now figures as a not unimportant item in our export lists, to say nothing of his supplying healthy sport to thousands annually. His presence is, however, responsible for the introduction of the stoats and weasels by the General Government, which must be classed as one of the grave errors in acclimatisation; and also to the introduction of the microbe of chicken cholera, which I, like the Gore farmers, fear will be attended with more evil than good, for it stands to reason that, if it takes root so as to be of service in perceptibly reducing the rabbits, it must also decimate our feathered fauna, and may lead to our old enemies the hairy caterpillar and the Elater grub getting the upper hand again, to say nothing of its perhaps killing off some of the less robust species of our indigenous avifauna.
I have referred to the timidity of our societies regarding the introduction of “small birds,” and some may think that if their numbers be reduced by the chicken cholera good will result; but, unfortunately, it will not discriminate between the green linnet or finch, in whose favour nothing can be said, and our benefactor the starling. In importing further birds more care should be taken to select the subjects, and there are many small birds which could be acclimatised with advantage. The stupid idea that because some small birds are nocuous all small birds are, instead of being encouraged by our acclimatisation societies, should be combated, and our country population taught better. At present some of our County Councils give rewards for the eggs and heads of small birds, and pay for sparrows, green linnets, goldfinches, and hedge-sparrows indiscriminately. The two former are destructive, and should be kept in check; the goldfinch does little or no harm, though a seed-eating bird, and must do good in checking the spread of the Californian thistle and other weeds with winged seeds; while the latter is one of our best friends, lives on insects, and should be protected rather than destroyed. Perhaps, being misnamed a sparrow, he shares in the curses hurled at the head of his namesake the impudent sparrow of our streets. I regret to observe that this pretty little sombre-coated bird, which is our earliest songster—his sweet warble being heard before
even the earliest thrush—is not nearly so common as he once was. As to the sparrow proper, it is a matter for regret that he was not left at Home; and there was the experience of other lands as a warning, for he was introduced into New York to keep down some insect-pest, but the inhabitants were not long in regretting that they had made his acquaintance. I believe our society turned out one or two, but the sparrows came to us from Christchurch. When I first visited that city they were then already numerous, and I had not seen any since I left the Home-country. A year or two afterwards I saw them in considerable numbers at Oamaru; shortly afterwards I observed their advanced guard at Palmerston; and the year after that I saw the first sparrow I had noticed in Dunedin, where they bred and mustered with great rapidity.
No doubt the sparrow does a great deal of good, for he feeds his numerous broods of young almost, if not entirely, on insects; but I think it might have been possible to get a bird or birds that would have done the same amount of good without any attendant harm. I have been told that the sparrow was not voluntarily introduced by the Christchurch society, but that a few pairs were brought out by a ship captain as a speculation about the time the society was importing birds. He was, however, disappointed in realising his shipment at a good price, for the society would have none of them, so he liberated the lot. If the tale be true, how often must the members of the society who declined the purchase have regretted that they did not buy the sparrows and wring their necks.
A similar ignorance to that of the farmer in putting all small birds in the same category has been displayed by our legislators. For example, “The Animals Protection Act, 1880,” absolutely prohibits the importation of hawks and birds of prey. One would almost think that the Parliament had been composed of English gamekeepers, who are the uncompromising foes of any bird or animal that they even imagine might kill a young pheasant or partridge. Yet the kestrel, a well-known British hawk, feeds chiefly on field-mice and the larger insects, such as fat-bodied moths and beetles. Our own sparrow-hawk is rather a rare bird, and the large swamp-hawk is of little or no use in keeping the small-birds in check; so I think it would be a good thing to introduce some birds of prey from other lands—for there is no reason why we should not look to America, as well as Europe, for subjects for acclimatisation. The British owls are useful birds, and would, I think, help to keep down the sparrows. Some of the shrikes or butcher-birds, of which there are two species which visit Britain, might also be introduced with advantage; they prey upon insects and young birds. Even the carrion-crow would,
I think, do more good than harm. It would destroy a good many young rabbits, and if it did kill a weakling lamb or two it would merely take the place of the seagulls, which are addicted to that pernicious custom, whose numbers it would reduce, as from its partiality for eggs it would find a rich harvest in the nests of the gulls, which breed in the shingly riverbeds.
None of these birds could be imported as the law now stands, but the present prohibition might be repealed, as the Act of 1895 prohibits the importation of any animals, birds, insects, or reptiles without the consent of the Minister for Agriculture. This provision was introduced because of the Christchurch society contemplating the introduction of wood-pigeons. Their intention was announced in the Press, and, knowing that wood-pigeons were anything but farmers' friends, I wrote to the Otago Daily Times protesting against their introduction, and suggesting that the farmers' clubs should petition the Government to interfere. Several clubs did so, with the result that the project was abandoned, and the legislative enactment referred to passed. It is a wise provision, if the Minister be well advised, as it will prevent ill-considered experiments; and it is better that good things should not be imported rather than any bad ones should be introduced.
Of the other birds introduced by our society, the blackbird and thrush are amongst the most prominent. The former, notwithstanding his mellow song, would have been better omitted from their list, owing to its partiality for fruit. The thrush is also given to the same bad habit, but in a lesser degree, and he is a shyer bird and more easily kept under. He is also very fond of snails, which have, unfortunately, been introduced, and are very numerous in different localities in the North, and have also, I am told, made their appearance at Gore. For my part, I would willingly allow the tuneful mavis his modicum of fruit in return for his pleasant song; but those who do not take the same view may find consolation in his snail-destroying habits. If the sparrow, the greenfinch, and the blackbird could be eliminated, I do not think we should have much to complain of in the work done by the societies. The chaffinch, a seed-eating bird, throve splendidly at first, but, so far as the neighbourhood of Dunedin is concerned, has almost died out. For some years the bush at the Glen used to be full of them, and their sharp, bright little song was pleasant to the ear; but they are now all gone—why or wherefore I cannot tell. I saw a few at Moeraki some years ago, and also more recently at Banks Peninsula, but in neither locality were they at all numerous. The cirlbunting, a bird which lives on insects in summer and seeds in winter, throve and increased in this neighbourhood for some
years, and, like the chaffinch, disappeared. It is still to be met with, I am told, in the Tokomairiro district. It was often mistaken for the yellow-hammer by those not familiar with both birds. The latter was amongst the number let loose, and, though they increased somewhat, they never became numerous, but were to be seen about where St. Clair now is, and amongst the gorse above Caversham for a few years. They never took a firm hold, however, and have, I think, all died off. Red-poles, twites, and reed-sparrows were turned loose and never heard of again, while the English robin failed to find a congenial habitat in our land. The skylark, on the other hand, has spread all over the country, and, though it is granivorous, does no great amount of harm.
These are all the small birds that have been introduced into Otago so far as I have been able to ascertain, though the society have no easily accessible records earlier than 1876. Some nightingales were, if I recollect aright, let loose by the Hon. Mr. Larnach on the Peninsula; but, seeing we have few ants here, they could hardly be expected to thrive, as ants' eggs, as they are popularly called, being really the pupæ, form an important item of their food; besides, being birds of passage, they might have sought other localities, though I have never heard of their turning up in the North Island or Australia. The latest introduction by our society is the lapwing, which should, if it thrives, prove a desirable acquisition; but it is too soon yet to judge of the result of the experiment. Most of the birds mentioned are seed-eating. Such birds are most easily introduced, and, as a rule, are the least to be desired; but in these days of direct steamers it would be easier to bring out insectivorous birds than it was in the old sailing-ship days, when most of the birds were imported, and I think the attempt should be made. I fear such useful birds as the goat-sucker, or any of the titmice, would not stand the long voyage; but some of the warblers might do so, as I think would that delightful little songster the wren, which is a very hardy little bird.
It may be urged that most of the British insectivorous birds are birds of passage, and that our position is so isolated that such birds would have nowhere to go. If they were compelled to migrate in search of food it is possible that in the milder climates of the North Island and the west coast of this Island they might find a sufficient food-supply without going farther afield. Our pretty little native fantailed fly-catcher could not survive a British winter, yet here a descent to the coastal districts from the colder inland regions is for them a sufficient migration. They frequently visit my garden and verandahs in the winter in search of food, but are rarely
to be met with so near Dunedin in the summer. If our fantail can survive our winter with such a slight migration I think many British birds could also do so, whilst such birds as the wren and titmouse would in winter search every crack and cranny for the hidden eggs and pupæ of insects which from their habits escape the starling and other insectiverous birds we already possess.
But, as I have said before, I think a mistake is made in looking chiefly to Britain for objects for introduction. The conditions in California and Oregon must in some respects be more allied to those in New Zealand than are those of Britain, and it is probable that some useful birds might be procured thence. The larger birds which it has been attempted to acclimatise have been chiefly introduced with a view to sport—such as pheasants, partridges, Californian quail, black grouse, English wild-duck, and Australian swans. The latter have spread all over the country, but, with the exception of the Californian quail, none of the others have been successfully established. Both pheasants and partridges gave good hopes of becoming well acclimatised, especially the former, but they were destroyed when rabbit-poisoning became prevalent. No doubt that had a great deal to do with their extinction; but it was not the only factor, for the pheasants, after increasing rapidly, died off in localities where no rabbit-poisoning was resorted to, such as Banks Peninsula. A gentleman resident there for many years informed me that the same thing happened with the domestic turkey, which he let run wild when he first settled there. The turkeys increased not merely in number, but also in size, for several years, but after a time they began to dwindle in number and decrease in weight till none were left in a wild state.
Our society also turned out some Indian minahs and Australian magpies, but, so far as I know, neither succeeded. A few of the former took up their abode in First Church spire, and lived there for two or three years, but eventually died out. Minahs are, however, numerous in some parts of the North Island. Near Wanganui I saw many of them. And the Australian magpie is, I believe, quite established in some localities in Canterbury. If our climate be too rigorous for them their place might be supplied in Otago by the English magpie, which is a most useful bird, though an enemy to the gamekeeper. I need only mention that there were also introduced hares (which in this province shared the fate of the pheasants), axis, fallow, and red-deer—of which the two last, at least, have done well; but it has always seemed to me a pity that nothing has been done in the way of stocking our high mountains with chamois, ibex, big horns, or some such mountain sport-affording denizen.
What an immense attraction sport of that nature would be in the eyes of many, and though these animals eat grass they would interfere but little, if at all, with the seemingly more useful sheep. I say “seemingly more useful,” for I believe that were some such sport-affording animal established in our mountains it would be more profitable than the slightly increased number of sheep which the country might carry would be.
There might also possibly be animals which could be introduced with advantage viewed from another standpoint than that of sport. When I was a boy I remember reading a great deal about the bovine-like antelope, the eland, which it was suggested might be domesticated in England, be the means of affording a new source of food-supply, and a change from the continual beef and mutton. I was reminded of this lately by seeing it mentioned that an English nobleman owned a small herd in his park. Probably the experiment of domestication was never tried, but it would, I think, have much more chance of success in our more genial clime than in England, and might be worth trying if the animals could now be got, for they are almost, if not altogether, extinct in their native land—South Africa. The fact that ostriches have been successfully reared in this colony would augur well for success, and at the present price of frozen mutton it might pay us to tickle the British palate with a new sensation, and ship frozen eland instead.
The only other animal besides those that I have mentioned that has been introduced in this part of the colony is the opossum, which is increasing, and, I am told, here yields a better fur than in its native home. Our society once got some hedgehogs, but landed only one, I think. They ought to repeat the experiment, for it is a most useful animal, living on insects, slugs, and snails, as does the shrew (or shrew-mouse as it is often called, though its diet no more resembles that of the mouse proper than does that of the hedge-sparrow resemble the diet of the house-sparrow). Either or both of these animals should be introduced, and would keep in check some of our insect foes.
While some native insects have already disappeared or been reduced in number, others have increased. As an instance of the former I may mention a small bright metallic-green beetle that used to be very common thirty years ago. Its favourite food was the manuka scrub, but it by no means confined its attention to that, and used to attack introduced plants as well. It has disappeared in this neighbourhood, and probably the much-abused sparrow may claim credit for its extinction.
An instance of the increase of an indigenous insect is that
of a brown beetle, which is very destructive both in the larval and imago stages. Those of you who are gardeners must be familiar with the larvæ, especially if your gardens are on a dry and sunny slope. They are white grubs with the hinder part doubled up under them, and look very much like the grub of the cockchafer. These beetles have increased greatly of late years, no doubt owing to the loosening of the soil by cultivation permitting more of the larvæ to attain maturity, and probably also owing to the introduction of additional food-supplies, though they do not seem to be very particular as to what they eat. They are partial to the roots of young Cupressus macrocarpa, strawberries, and other plants. I know one man who had to abandon a small piece of ground he had leased for nursery purposes because of the ravages of this pest. The beetles live on the foliage of many plants, and are so numerous as to sometimes quite disfigure them, and the larvæ, as I said, live on the roots; so that in both stages this insect is a pest. The beetle is nocturnal, or at least crepuscular in its habits, and so escapes our birds. In the day-time it hides about the roots of bushes and under clods of earth, and places of that sort, where it would be found by the hedgehog or shrew.
The toad, too, is a reptile which would assist in thinning their numbers, and would, I should think, be very easily introduced. It might not be in favour with bee-keepers, as toads have been known to take up a position near a hive and pick off the bees from the landing-stage, but this drawback could be easily combated, and would be more than compensated by the services it would render in destroying the woodlice or slaters, which are a great pest to gardeners, to say nothing of other insects which it would keep down. English entomological collectors sometimes obtain specimens of rare beetles by catching toads in the early morning and cutting them open on the chance of finding some of these rare Coleoptera undigested. The British frog, too, would be useful, but not so much so as the toad, as it does not travel so far from water as does the latter.
An attempt might be made to introduce some useful insects, though extreme care would have to be exercised in any experiments in this direction. So far as I am aware, the only attempt to do so was the introduction of the bumble-bee by the Canterbury society, their object being the fertilisation of the red-clover, a result which has been successfully attained, while several garden plants, such as the foxglove and primrose, seed much more profusely now than they did before the bumble-bee was numerous; indeed, so far as primroses are concerned, I never noticed my plants spreading at all by seedlings before the advent of the bumble-bee, but now they
do so freely. One at times hears complaints of the depredations of these bees amongst the flowers from gardeners, but on the whole I think their introduction is not a matter for regret. Probably if some of the insect-eating creatures I have mentioned were introduced they would aid in keeping the numbers of these bees within proper bounds. There are also carnivorous insects which might be introduced with advantage. For instance, there is the golden ground-beetle (Carabus auratus), which is a very useful predacious beetle, and the Calosoma sycophanta is of such a voracious nature that it is a true cannibal, eating anything in the shape of an insect, including even its own kind. Then, the European glow-worm, which is the female of a beetle (Lampyris splendidula), lives on snails and slugs, as also does one species of Silpha (S. lavigata), while another species (S. quadripunctata) lives on caterpillars. But one species of this genus (S. opaca) lives on vegetable food, and is fond of young beet-root; so that care would have to be taken that the desired kind was obtained. I have mentioned two or three insects, but the list could be increased. Some of these could, I should think, be easily imported by bringing out the pupæ in the cool-chamber of a direct steamer.
There is one other aspect of acclimatisation which must be touched upon before I close. I refer to what may be called accidental acclimatisation, and, as a rule, the immigrants we receive in this manner are decidedly undesirable. In this category must be placed rats, mice, the house-fly, the bot-fly, snails, fruit-tree blights, Hessian fly, and other noxious insects, some species of earthworms, &c. I suppose the slater or woodlouse is also an introduction, but I am not certain; at any rate, this destructive crustacean is quite at home here now. The earthworm is perhaps the only unobjectionable name in that list, and it has thriven and multiplied exceedingly, so that now the majority of our garden earthworms belong to introduced species. Possibly the house-fly should also be excepted, which, though somewhat of a nuisance, is perhaps the lesser of two evils, for it is said to have driven away to a large extent the native blow-fly, which was so numerous and objectionable in the early days. The house-fly was supposed to have been introduced by the Australian cattle-ships, and I remember hearing of country people taking them from town to their homes in match-boxes after it had been ascertained that they supplanted the blow-flies. Some may think that the diminution of the numbers of the native blow-fly is due to the imported birds, but it began some years before any such birds had been liberated. The latest accidental introduction that has come under my notice is the earwig, of which we also have an indigenous
species, which I saw a few months ago at Nelson. This addition to our population will be much deplored by our gardeners, especially by dahlia-growers. These accidental introductions are a strong reason why our acclimatisation societies should not relax their efforts if any argument be necessary in favour of continuing acclimatisation, which, rightly directed, might still be of great service to our agriculturists and the community generally.
Time will not permit my referring to the acclimatisation of plants, which is a department in which much more can be and has been done by individual effort than is possible in the others which I have glanced at.
In conclusion, I would again reiterate that it is desirable that the societies should in the future endeavour to keep more perfect records regarding their work than they have done in the past. Another desideratum, in my opinion, is the publication of a cheap handbook, giving in popular form some information regarding not only our introduced but our native fauna, so that our rural population might be enabled to discriminate between the noxious and beneficial, or, at least, harmless, species of birds and insects. The lack of knowledge is prevalent in the Old World as well as here. I have already referred to the mania of gamekeepers for indiscriminate slaughter, while such useful creatures as the shrew and the toad are often treated as evil things, and ruthlessly killed whenever seen. Dr. Duncan, in his “Transformation of Insects,” in writing of the golden ground-beetle, which I have mentioned, says, “It destroys a great number of insects which do much mischief to agriculture; but, of course, country people crush them whenever they have an opportunity, instead of preserving them.” The information contained in such a book would be a most important part of the technical education of our farmers, and it is to be hoped that some day such a book may be written. The Government have done a little in the way of printing leaflets regarding different pests, but what is wanted is something more comprehensive and in a more permanent form, and I trust that my suggestion may some day bear fruit.
I observe it is arranged that a conference of the acclimatisation societies of the colony is to be held, and I venture to suggest that they might consider the advisability of coming to some arrangement whereby the waste of energy that has occurred in the past might be obviated in the future, which arises from their independent action. An example of this is to be found in the fact that more than one society imported the same kind of birds and fish, while with a little patience they might have drawn their supplies from another portion of the colony at considerably less expense. No doubt such points as
this will receive due consideration at the hands of the conference, and they might possibly agree to take united action in some of the more expensive experiments. The proposal to hold the conference is a good sign, and one which augurs well for the future of acclimatisation in New Zealand, which is a field in which much yet remains to be done.