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Under The Microscope

WORKING FOR WILDLIFE: A HISTORY OF THE NZ WILDLIFE SERVICE by Ross Galbreath; Bridget Williams Books Ltd/ Historical Branch, Dept Internal Affairs, 1993; 253 pp; $10.95

Reviewed by Craig Miller

As a scientist currently working for the Department of Conservation, I found this book a very informative read. It let me understand where my colleagues who had worked for the Wildlife Service had come from. I learnt a lot, and was grateful for the work and dedication that these people had committed to New Zealand's fauna and flora.

But as well as being a history of the Wildlife Service, and the people who served, this book is also a history of tension. Tension between those favouring exotic over native species (or vice versa), tension between and within departments, tension between scientists and managers, and tension between the public and public servants. Nothing changes.

The story of the high profile projects -- the saving of the black robin, the kakapo, and the takahe -- are here. But there are also the less well known stories, including the personalities behind the work. The Wildlife Service deservedly earned its reputation as an international leader in wildlife conservation through the dedication and commitment of its staff.

Ross Galbreath has extensively researched the Wildlife Service and has written an easily readable but comprehensive history. Rather than being a memorial to a service passed, this book records the foundation of a national conservation movement with a future. It will appeal to those with an interest in the conservation of New Zealand's fauna, including the exotic species, and is well worth reading.

Craig Miller has an interest in conservation, ecological restoration and the sustainable use of natural resources.