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Kangaroos – The 100 Days Project: Day 30 [71]

John Gould

John Gould, by Thomas Herbert Maguire, 1849

John Gould, the renowned zoologist, illustrator and taxidermist, had already been working on illustrations of (dead) Australian birds when, with his illustrator wife, their eldest son, and a small entourage of assistants, he set sail for Australia on the Parsee in May 1838. Although he left Australia in April 1940, his work in Australia had already been so extensive as to place him in the league of such as Joseph Banks and François Peron in terms of the discovery, registration, classification and early visual record of Australian fauna. His The Birds of Australia (1840-69) and The Mammals of Australia (1845-63) are works of major historical and zoological significance. As his comments on his head/portrait of a male Red Kangaroo reveal below (quoted from The Mammals of Australia) he had not only a particular interest in the macropods but, with Darwin before him and Virginia Kraft and so many others after, a serious concern for Australia’s attitude to its wildlife.

– from The Mammals of Australia (1863)



       Great Red Kangaroo



I regret very much to say that the time may not be far distant when an opportunity of giving a full-sized drawing of the head of this noble animal, taken from life, will not be possible. The larger and more conspicuous productions of an island are often, as a natural consequence, the first that become extirpated; and this result takes place more speedily where no protection is afforded to them. Short-sighted indeed are the Anglo-Australians, or they would long ere this have made laws for the preservation of their highly singular, and in many instances noble, indigenous animals; and doubly foresighted are they for wishing to introduce to Australia productions of other climes, whose forms and nature are not adapted to that country. Let me then urge them to bestir themselves, ere it be too late, to establish laws for the preservation of the large Kangaroos, the Emeu, and other conspicuous indigenous animals; without some such protection, the remnant that is left will soon disappear, to be followed by unavailing regret for the apathy with which they have been previously regarded. I make no apology, therefore, for publishing a life-sized head of the Great Red Kangaroo of the plains, a detailed history of which will be found accompanying the reduced figures.

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