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New book explores the Chatham Islands

New book explores the Chatham Islands

A comprehensive account of the human and natural history of the Chatham Islands will be published by Canterbury University Press this month.

Chatham Islands: Heritage and conservation, edited by Dr Colin Miskelly, is a wide-ranging exploration of the islands featuring contributions from a team of experts working in the fields of history, geology, marine and land ecology, and flora and fauna.

First published by CUP in association with the Department of Conservation (DOC) in 1996 and a finalist in the 1997 Montana New Zealand Book Awards, the 2008 edition has been updated and expanded to include two new chapters, 190 new photographs, an eight-page glossary, and 10 text boxes covering previously overlooked species groups such as fungi, spiders, land snails and the endemic skink.

Dr Miskelly, a conservation analyst with DOC in Wellington, says the book provides an authoritative and comprehensive account of the islands.

“Chatham Islands: Heritage and conservation is written by recognised authorities within each specialist area, and presents up-to-date and previously unpublished information that is known only by the scientists who are doing the work,” he says.

Contributors to the book include the late historians Michael King and Te Miria Kate Wills-Johnson, geologist Dr Hamish Campbell, marine ecologist Professor David Schiel, entomologists John Dugdale and Rowan Emberson, botanists Dr Peter de Lange, Dr Peter Heenan and John Sawyer, and DOC Chatham Islands area manager Ken Hunt.

Lavishly illustrated throughout, the book’s emphasis is on the natural history and ecology of the islands. However, it also offers an introduction to the role people have played in the Chathams and provides a guide to the many reserves and covenants that have been established to preserve and protect the islands’ heritage.

“The book details many successful conservation programmes that have saved Chatham Island bird and plant species from extinction. These include the rescue of the black robin from a low of five birds, the rediscovery of the Chatham Island taiko in 1978 and its gradual recovery to 15 breeding pairs, and attempts to move four bird species to predator-fenced sites on the two larger inhabited islands,” said Dr Miskelly.

“The book also documents the efforts that local landowners have made to protect over 3000 hectares (7500 acres) of private land.”

One of the new chapters, written by Dr Miskelly, also profiles people who have contributed to the understanding and protection of the Chatham Islands’ heritage.

Dr Miskelly’s involvement in the Chatham Islands began in 1978, when he first visited the islands as a volunteer with Taiko Expeditions. Between 1983 and 1986 he carried out doctoral research on snipe on Rangatira and has been involved with conservation work on the islands since 1998. He is co-author of the books Endemic plants of the Chatham Islands and Birds of the Chatham Islands, and has published many technical articles on the ecology and conservation of Chatham Island birds.

Chatham Islands: heritage and conservation will be launched at Hotel Chatham, Waitangi, Chatham Island, on 2 December and at the Department of Conservation, Head Office, Wellington, on 9 December.

Chatham Islands: heritage and conservation, edited by Colin Miskelly, published by Canterbury University Press, December 2008, RRP NZ$39.95, Paperback, 224pp, ISBN 978-877257-78-0.


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