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New creatures made known : (re)discovering the extinct King Island emu

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Pfennigwerth, Stephanie Clare (2010) New creatures made known : (re)discovering the extinct King Island emu. Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Nicolas Baudin's 1801-1804 voyage of discovery to the southern lands was the only
scientific expedition to collect specimens of the dwarf emu Dromaius ater, endemic
to King Island, Bass Strait, Australia. The expedition's naturalist, Francois Peron,
documented the only detailed description of the life history of the birds (translated
here in full for the first time), and the artist Charles-Alexandre Lesueur made the only
visual record of a living bird. But the King Island emu's textual, taxonomic and even
taxidermic representations were confused with other species and some of their
remains, scattered across Europe, are elusive. A bird collected as part of one of the
most ambitious ordering enterprises in early nineteenth-century science has been more
or less forgotten.
This thesis recovers the natural and unnatural history of the King Island emu, a
species extinct in the wild since 1805. Placing the birds at the centre of the narrative,
it traces their first encounters with Europeans to their last (and lasting) confinement in
the menagerie and Museum. This innovative approach is in keeping with Animal
Studies, an interdisciplinary field committed to examining the relationships between
human and non-human species. In recounting the birds' story, the thesis discusses the
general pattern of contemporaneous scientific collecting and some of the paradoxes of
the nature and history of natural history: the link between discovery and demise.
Analysing a wide variety of textual records, it demonstrates how competing principles
of organisation in Republican natural science, and scientific expeditions, influenced
attitudes toward and understandings of the King Island emu, with material
consequences for their conservation. The thesis also reveals how visual
representations further contributed, albeit unwittingly, to the species' epistemological
and literal extinction.
While such evidence does much to expose human attitudes to animals, it also shows
the ways in which animal "specimens," far from being inert objects of subsidiary
influence, actually played a major role in human endeavours. Proof of the emus' life
experiences, written on and in their physical remains, likewise provides insight into
animal realities only hinted at in the human documents. The thesis thus uncovers a
rich seam of alternative experience and interpretation of human and animal heritage
while suggesting a rethinking of our taken-for-granted place in the hierarchy of
nature.

Item Type: Thesis (Research Master)
Keywords: Baudin, Nicolas, 1754-1803, Emus, Extinct birds, Collectors and collecting, Emus
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2010 the Author

Additional Information:

Available for use in the Library but NOT for copying until 12th April 2012. After that date, available for use in the Library and copying in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968, as amended. Thesis (MA)--University of Tasmania, 2010. Includes bibliographical references. Introduction -- Ch. 1. Finding -- Ch. 2. Forgetting -- Ch. 3. Recollecting -- Conclusion. Release -- Appendix. Peron's questionnaire

Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2015 03:11
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2016 05:53
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