[Editor: This speech, by Dudley Le Souef, was published in The Daily Telegraph: Tasmania (Launceston, Tas.), 12 January 1910.]
Address by Mr. D. Le Souef.
It is gratifying to state that this subject has lately come well to the fore in Australia, especially in the southern States and I hope that whatever has been done will only be a forerunner of much more to come.
Our native fauna and flora are not ours to do what we like with, but, to quote another, “are given to us in trust for the benefit both of the present and future generations. We must render an account of this trust to those who come after us; it is therefore the duty of every Australian to promote the protection of our forests and wild life, while there is still some left to preserve, and, if rightly conserved, wild game, especially birds, constitutes a valuable asset to any country which possesses it, and it is good statesmanship to protect it.”
The few reserves in Australia at present are insignificant to what we should have, especially in comparison with what is being done in other countries. Take Canada, for instance, she has the Rocky Mountain Park, consisting of 2,764,800 acres; Jasper Park Alberta, 3,488,000 acres; and six others, with a total area of 4,179,200 acres. In the United States they had up to June 1, 1909, 12 national and provincial parks and game preserves, of a total area of 7,258,963 acres; and besides, to quote from the “New York Zoological Bulletin”: “Around the coast of the United States there is being gradually extended a chain of insular bird sanctuaries, that means much to the avifauna of North America. Prior to January 1, 1909, 25 national bird refuges had been created by executive order and proclamation chiefly along our sea coasts. They provide specially protected breeding grounds for the pelican, gulls, terns, shore birds of various species, herons, egrets, ducks, and numerous other species. It is impossible to over-estimate the zoological value of these sanctuaries, or to praise too highly the wisdom that brought them into existence. During the present year 26 more island preserves have been proclaimed.” Our American cousins would not make all these reserves and sanctuaries if they did not consider them necessary for the well-being of their country, and surely we should not be behind them. Sanctuaries are just as necessary to our country as theirs; more so.
When we consider for a moment the enormous amount of insect life that is yearly consumed by our insectivorous birds, it is incalculable and beyond our comprehension. Just to give one instance, when Surgeon-Colonel C. Ryan and myself visited a single ibis rookery in New South Wales, we estimated the number of grasshoppers or locusts consumed in one day by the parents and young at approximately 482,000,000, in addition to vast numbers of caterpillars and snails; and we have to remember that this is going on more or less all over the Commonwealth, and that if it were not for our birds insect life would be so plentiful that we would find it difficult to grow fruit, for instance; and even now we have to use artificial means to reduce our insect pests, largely on account of the paucity of birds. This all tends to show the urgent necessity of proclaiming bird sanctuaries; each particular class of country should have one, especially in the more thickly populated States.
NEW SOUTH WALES
has lately formed a Wild-life Protection Society, the main object of which is to protect native birds; and it is much needed, as near the Murray River in that State are extensive swamps, which form the breeding-ground of many water-fowl, including the beautiful egret. It is there that so much destruction has been caused to these birds during the nesting season, for the sake of their plumes. There are at present in this State 18 smaller reserves, mostly for water-fowl, as well as three large parks — the Centennial National, and Kurai-Kai — containing a total area of over 80,000 acres, as well as Warren, Dubbo, and Lismore districts, having a total area of 61,655 acres. The number of these areas will probably soon be increased largely by private owners having their properties proclaimed bird sanctuaries.
is also well to the fore in protecting her avifauna, and the Education Department has inaugurated a bird day in connection with the State schools, and is also forming a Gould Society among the children; any child on payment of a penny can become a member, and will have a printed card given it, and from time to time illustrated leaflets. Nature study classes have also been inaugurated among the teachers, and much attention is being devoted to birds. A hand list of Victorian birds, with a short description of each species, has been published by the department. This work will be illustrated later and should prove a valuable help. Much information on this subject is also being disseminated through the medium of the State school papers.
Then there is the Bird Observers’ Club, an organisation which seeks to popularise bird study, and in so doing to protect the birds. At present there are 23 reserves, containing a total area of 123,989 acres, in which no destruction of bird life is permitted. One of them, Wilson’s Promontory, containing 91,000 acres, has been fenced to exclude wild dogs and foxes, and a caretaker, who is a bird-lover and well versed in wild life, has been placed in charge. Besides these reserves, many private owners have had suitable portions of their properties proclaimed as reserves for game, and these, as well as the Government reserves, are increasing in number. Some of the shire councils are also having certain lands under their control, especially lakes, gazetted, with the same object in view; so there seems a good chance of many of the rarer birds still remaining, despite rabbit poison and pea-rifles. And, by the way, it is time that a tax was put on the destructive pea-rifles. Many human lives would probably be saved by so doing (fatal accidents are frequently occurring), not to mention the number of useful insectivorous birds which are yearly killed by thoughtless youths.
has at present three large reserves for the preservation of its fauna and flora, or a total area of 40,400 acres, and many private properties are also bird sanctuaries where every effort is made to protect and attract bird-life, even to placing suitable nesting-boxes in trees and other places. Bird lovers in this State deserve much credit for the way in which they have persevered in having their birds protected, and they will surely benefit by it as well as the public generally. Much lively interest is being taken by the Education Department of the State in bird matters. Illustrated articles appear from time to time in the “School Paper” and “Children’s Hour,” and the Government is at present preparing colored illustrations of various protected birds for the use of the police.
has at present 11 reserves, of a total area of 26,000 acres, and it is to be hoped that efforts will be made by that State to introduce the lyre bird into that country, where it will be free from the persecution of its arch-enemy, the fox. Queensland and Western Australia do not need sanctuaries nearly as much as the other States mentioned, they being so much more sparsely populated, but it is to be hoped that both States will reserve some of their islands as sanctuaries, especially Hinchinbrook Island, on the coast of Queensland, which would make a splendid national reserve, as well as Bellender-Ker and similar mountains on the mainland. The Queensland Government has already reserved several small islands as sanctuaries, principally to prevent the destruction of Torres Straits pigeons when they migrate from New Guinea to Queensland for the purpose of nesting. New Zealand, as is well known, has several large bird sanctuaries, which are placed under the care of wardens.
One thing I think should surely be done, and that is to make the destruction of foxes a Commonwealth matter, as although fortunately they have not yet spread over the whole of Australia, it is only a matter of time when they will have done so, and stringent laws should be made for their destruction. It is difficult to say to what extent our ground game may suffer in years to come, let alone lambs and poultry; nothing alive seems to come amiss to foxes as food, and they usually kill far more than they can eat. These animals are responsible for the destruction of thousands of water-fowl, ibis and similar valuable insectivorous birds, mostly by invading rookeries during the nesting season; they also destroy lyre birds, bustards, quail, young emu and scores of similar birds, and will do the same to the scrub turkeys and scrub hens in Northern Australia when they reach there.
I am glad to see that the value of pelicans and cormorants is being brought more into prominence, and I hope in time that these birds will be protected, instead of rewards being offered for their destruction.
I think the Australasian Ornithologists’ Union has done good work in helping to popularise the study of birds, and it is mostly due to its members that the subject is assuming the national importance it is justly entitled to, and I hope as years go on that members will not relax their efforts, but will seek more than ever to preserve a valuable national asset — our birds.
The Daily Telegraph: Tasmania (Launceston, Tas.), 12 January 1910, p. 6
Also published in:
The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld.), 5 February 1910, p. 32
The Bacchus Marsh Express (Bacchus Marsh, Vic.), 19 February 1910, p. 4
In this article the newspaper capitalized the names of some Australian states and utilized them as sub-headings.
An introductory paragraph to this speech was published in The Queenslander (5 February 1910), giving some details regarding Mr. D. Le Souef, as follows:
Address of the President — Mr. D. Le Souef, C.M.Z.S., &c., Director of the Melbourne Zooloogical Gardens — before the Australasian Ornithologists’ Union, at Adelaide.
avifauna = the birds (especially the indigenous birds) of a particular area, habitat, or region; the birds of a particular time or geological period
Commonwealth =  of or relating to the Commonwealth of Australia
Commonwealth =  the Commonwealth of Australia; the Australian nation, federated on 1 January 1901
D. Le Souef = William Henry Dudley Le Souef (1856-1923), known as Dudley; Director of the Melbourne Zoo (1902-1923) and bird enthusiast (he was president of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists’ Union, 1907-1909); he was born in Brighton (Melbourne, Vic.) in 1856, and died in Royal Park (Melbourne, Vic.) in 1923
See: 1) A. Dunbavin Butcher, “Le Souef, William Henry (1856–1923)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography
2) “Dudley Le Souef”, Wikipedia
game = any wild animal hunted for food, for animal products, for recreation or sporting, or for trophies (can also refer to the meat of those animals, regarding food)
gazetted = regarding something which has been announced, listed, or proclaimed in a government gazette
insectivorous = feeding mainly on insects (regarding an insect-eating animal or plant)
paucity = lack of; few or small in number; not enough in number, insufficient of quantity; scarcity
pea-rifle = a rifle of a small calibre (especially a .22 calibre rifle); a small rifle; a small-bore muzzle-loading rifle which fires a ball approximately the size of a pea
score = twenty (sometimes used in conjunction with a cardinal number, e.g. “threescore”, “fourscore”) (may also refer to an undefined large number)
[Editor: Replaced the single quotation mark before “New York Zoological Bulletin” with a double quotation mark. Changed “Mr. R. Le Souef” to “Mr. D. Le Souef” (in line with the other printings of this article); “shire councls are also havng certan lands” to “shire councils are also having certain lands”.]
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