In Part one, Part two and Part three, I dwelt on some of the best known contemporary writers in science whose ideas have been shaped by the time they have engaged in zoological exploration in New Guinea. In this final part, I mention some of the other natural history books and conclude with a bibliography of some of the books I have mentioned.
New Guinea will continue to attract fine scientists who are also able writers. The book by Vojtech Novotny, ‘Notebooks from New Guinea’ is another fine example of a field scientist writing a highly readable account of zoological exploration with empathy for the issues dealing with local people. There is a touch of Gerald Durrell’s style in his writing as it is full of wry humour and real insights into the difficulties of field work. Originally written in Czech, the English translation published by Oxford University Press is hard to put down. The sheer diversity of plant and animal life with many families and genera endemic to New Guinea is also resulting in more and more eco-tourists making the journey. Gregory’s book on birds lists the seven families (with other-worldly names like Ifritas, Ploughbills and Melampittas) that are endemic to New Guinea and each of the bird families in the book begins with an account of the families. These descriptions are more expansive than in most modern field guides and will be appreciated by keen birders.
Guides to the mammals and other popular groups such as butterflies are thin on the ground and tend towards very expensive books with a scientific bent. Given the limited audience, specialist books often go out of print and become expensive. When the UK-based Natural History Books Service announced the publication of a ‘Field Guide to the damselflies of New Guinea’ by Vincent Kalkman and Albert Orr, I snapped it up. Over 420 species of dragonflies and damselflies have been described from New Guinea and I was interested to learn that 60% of those species had been described by M.A. Lieftinck. His is a familiar name even in the Indian Subcontinent thanks to his prodigious output of odonatological papers and it was a name I became familiar with when I co-authored a field guide to the dragonflies of Sri Lanka.
Thanks to Amazon, it has become possible to find a few books on New Guinea, at reasonable second-hand prices. If content rather than gravitas on the book shelf is what you are after, a number of ex-library books, in varying conditions from nearly new to heavily used) can be ordered online from the ease of a smartphone app. A first edition of Andree Millar’s ‘Orchids of Papua New Guinea: an introduction’ is an example of one such cheap acquisition. My motivation being once again to compare large tropical islands with Sri Lanka and to understand the dynamics of island biogeography. New Guinea is absolutely amazing for orchids. It has over 2,800 species with a jaw-dropping 90 per cent of them endemic. It is the second richest area in the world for orchid species, second to the Northern Andes (Colombia, Ecuador and Peru) A very good introduction to orchids in general and to the orchids of New Guinea is the chapter by Andre Schuiteman and Ed De Vogel, ‘Orchidaceae of Papua’, in ‘The Ecology of Papua’.
One of the treasures in my book collection is the two volume set, ‘Ecology of Papua’ published by Periplus Editions. The two volumes are edited by Andrew Marshall and Bruce Beehler and the 1,476 pages contributed by 76 authors are a superb introduction to the western part of New Guinea, although much of it is also a useful insight to the natural history of the political unit of Papua New Guinea on the East. The second chapter of Part One by David Frodin is on ‘Biological Exploration of New Guinea’. It is a 94 page chapter and one of the finest examples of a grand tour of the people and ensuing publications that have charted the biological exploration of a geographical region. There are not very many books that are so ambitious and comprehensive in scope and it reminds me of another treasured book in my collection, ‘The Natural History of Madagascar’, edited by Steven Goodman and Jonathan Benstead, bringing together the contributions of over 300 authors in 1,708 pages.
Phil Gregory has been leading ornithological tours to New Guinea for many years. His recent field guide to birds published by Lynx Edicions which fills the need for a comprehensive guide covering New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and Bougainville, will help stimulate further wildlife tourism. New Guinea’s forests will benefit from wildlife tourism becoming an important economic resource as its forests should not be seen as needing to be harvested for timber to translate into cash for local communities.
My thanks to several people who have assisted me with the article and images. Elisa Badia of Lynx Edicions provided permission and images of the plates from the Birds of New Guinea by Phil Gregory. Lync Edicions also provided a review copy of the book. Phil Gregory of Sicklebill Safaris provided many images he has taken on tours he leads to New Guinea. Kim Romanski from the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority in London provided permissioned images taken by herself, Jan Romanski , Deborah Dunderdale, Kyaw Kyaw Winn and Stephen Walford. I was assisted once again with copy editing by Tara Wikramanayaka.
Beehler, B., Pratt, T.K., & Zimmerman, D. (1986). Birds of New Guinea. Second edition. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
Goodman, S. M., & Benstead, J.P. (Eds). (2003). The Natural History of Madagascar. University of Chicago Press. Pages 1709.
Flannery, T. (1998). Throwim Way Leg. Tree-Kangaroos, Possums and Penis Gourds - on the Track of Unknown Mammals in Wildest New Guinea. Atlantic Monthly Press: New York. Pages 326.
Flannery, T. (2007): An Explorer’s Notebook: Essays on Life, History and Climate. Atlantic Monthly Press: New York. Pages 321.
Gregory, P. (2017). Birds of New Guinea: Including Bismarck Archipelago and Bougainville. Lynx Edicions. Barcelona. Pages 464.
Junker, T. (2007). Ernst Mayr (1904–2005) and the new philosophy of biology. J. Gen Philos. Sci. 38:1–17. DOI 10.1007/s10838-007-9036-7
Kalkman, V. & Orr, A. (2013). Field Guide to the damselflies of New Guinea. Brachytron 16. Dutch Dragonfly Journal. Pages 118.
Marshall, A.J., & Beehler, B.M. (Eds). (2007). The Ecology of Indonesian Papua Part One. The Ecology of Indonesia Series. Volume VI. First Edition. Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd. Pages 1-749.
Marshall, A.J., & Beehler, B.M. (Eds). (2007). The Ecology of Indonesian Papua Part Two. The Ecology of Indonesia Series. Volume VI. First Edition. Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd. Pages 750-1,467.
Millar, A. et al (1978). Orchids of Papua New Guinea: an introduction. University of Washington Press: Seattle and London. Pages 101.
Novotny, V. (2009). Notebooks from New Guinea: Field Notes of a Tropical Biologist. Oxford University Press. Pages 256.
Pandolfi, J.M. (1992). A Review of the Tectonic History of New Guinea and its Significance for Marine Biogeography. Proceedings of the Seventh International Coral Reef Symposium, Guam, 1992.
Pratt, T.K., & Beehler, B.M. (2015). Birds of New Guinea. Second edition. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
Sulloway, F. J. (1984). Darwin and the Galapagos. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 21: 29-59.