Letters of a Naturalist

A landmark collection of the written natural history legacy of pioneer conservationist Richard Henry (1845-1929), champion of our flightless native birds and New Zealand’s first wildlife ranger. Hardback with jacket; 470 pages; 300 x 233mm; richly illustrated with over 500 images.

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"The fascinating and beautifully illustrated Letters of a Naturalist presents, for the first time, the collated writings of Richard Henry, pioneer conservationist and New Zealand's first wildlife ranger. It is a testament to the tenacity and foresight of one man, whose efforts to save kākāpō and kiwi still provide inspiration and guidance to those of us continuing his work more than a century later."

Dr Andrew Digby, Kākāpō Recovery,
Department of Conservation

About Us

Putangi Publications was established in 2022 as a vehicle for  self-publishing the  book Letters of a Naturalist -The Field Accounts of Richard Henry of Resolution Island,  edited by Susanne and John Hill, and Victoria Jaenecke.

The name 'Putangi', derived from the Māori word ‘pūtangitangi’ meaning paradise shelduck, has a special significance for the editors. The Hill family's involvement with the story of Richard Henry began when their 17-foot Aston longboat, named after Richard Henry's trusty old dinghy Putangi, was lifted over the mountains by helicopter for a three-week sailing holiday amongst the fiords and islands of Tamatea / Dusky Sound in 1974.

 In this adventure, Susanne and John Hill used Richard Henry’s reports to the Department of Lands and Survey as their guide. They soon began to feel great admiration for the man and his trailblazing work and subsequently spent twelve years researching and writing a biography, Richard Henry of Resolution Island ( McIndoe 1987, Cadsonbury 2015).  

The Hills felt it was important that Henry’s many letters about his life in Dusky as New Zealand’s first wildlife ranger and his other written material should be collated and published to put his pioneering conservation work on public record. With this companion book, Letters of a Naturalist, Putangi Publications presents the written legacy of this prominent figure in New Zealand's conservation history. The book is a not-for-profit publication and all proceeds will be donated to New Zealand conservation and bird recovery programmes.

Letters of a Naturalist

Richard Henry was New Zealand’s first wildlife ranger and a champion of our flightless native birds. Born in Ireland, raised in rural Australia, and having emigrated to New Zealand in the mid-1870s, he was appointed caretaker of Resolution Island in 1894, living and working - often alone - for fourteen years in wild and remote Dusky Sound in Fiordland.

Henry was courageous and resourceful, a skilled bushman, boatman, artificer, and a self-taught naturalist. He held quaintly unconventional views on many topics.

Richard Henry’s observations and descriptions of the birds and marine life of the Sound, his close relationship with its wildlife, his valiant efforts to save kākāpō and kiwi from the advancing tide of mustelids sweeping the mainland, and his translocation of the endangered birds to offshore islands, were pioneering contributions to wildlife conservation.

Richly illustrated throughout - with numerous contemporary and historic photographs, drawings, and maps - Letters of a Naturalist brings together his charming letters, natural-history notes, and early reminiscences, giving a complete and colourful picture of this truly remarkable man.

Hardback with jacket; 470 pages; Landscape format 300 x 233 mm; Over 500 illustrations.

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Book Interior Sample Pages

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