Wild Fiordland:
Discovering the Natural History of a World Heritage Area

Neville Peat + Brian Patrick

University of Otago Press 1996
A book review by Danny Yee © 2003 http://dannyreviews.com/
There are hundreds of books on New Zealand natural history, mostly pitched at the tourist market. Neville Peat is an author of popular books, with more than fifteen to his name, but Brian Patrick is an entomologist and Wild Fiordland is at the "upper end" of popular. Scientific names of species are used throughout alongside common names, the photographs are excellent but used to illustrate the text rather than standing by themselves, and the areas covered, while mostly accessible, extend well beyond the popular tourist destinations.

After an introduction and a chapter on geology, six chapters divide the region up in two different ways. There is a chapter on the Waiau River catchment and a second on the area draining into the fiords. And there are chapters on northern and southern Fiordland and (though treated in less detail) on the Mavora and the Takitimu and Longwood ranges — the scope of Wild Fiordland thus extending outside the World Heritage area. Sections focus on particular ecosystems and habitats as well as on highlight species (as one would expect, there is unusually good coverage of insects), and the text only rarely falls back on tedious listing of species.

"One of the most unusual and intriguing habitats in the Waiau catchment is a patch of shrubland about 20km south-east of Te Anau that is dominated by bog pine Halocarpus bidwillii.

People driving the Lumsden-Te Anau road (State Highway 94) pass through the middle [of] this habitat, which is known as The Wilderness Scientific Reserve. It is a frost flat, lying close to the Mararoa River.

The 88ha reserve, contrasting sharply with the surrounding farmland, gives a glimpse of what the general area might have looked like before agriculture transformed it with fenced pasture and exotic trees and hedgerows. ..."

A final chapter covers some general conservation issues.

The result is an excellent resource for visitors to Fiordland interested in natural history. I wish I'd managed to read Wild Fiordland before my visit to the area, instead of mostly afterwards, since it answered quite a few questions I had at the time and would have suggested places to visit.

March 2003

External links:
- buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
Related reviews:
- books about New Zealand + New Zealand history
- books about plants + botany
- more animals + zoology
%T Wild Fiordland
%S Discovering the Natural History of a World Heritage Area
%A Peat, Neville
%A Patrick, Brian
%I University of Otago Press
%D 1996
%O hardcover, colour photographs, index
%G ISBN 1877133175
%P 143pp