Neil's dissertation

Mark Walker mwalker at
Thu Sep 4 10:32:21 EDT 1997

Neil wrote:

> This is often the problem with reposting things verbatim. There is an example
> of a day flying moth which was collected to extinction. The New Forest Burnet
> moth was exterminated in Southern England in the 1920's Its demise was
> by the experts (all collectors) of the day. One dealer was reported to have 
> taken around a 1000 specimens and apparently the sites were staked out with
> people taking everything as it emerged.
> Subsequently a new colony was discovered on the Scottish coast hundreds of
> miles away. The colony is very very small and has survived for many years
> in numbers often in single figures on a tiny piece of habitat a few metres
> square.

This is exactly my point.  The New Forest Burnet moth was KNOWN to be few in
number.  The fact that it was collected to extinction is a sad commentary on
the behavior of early 20th century collectors.  Commercial sale of threatened
species is now, as we all know, very illegal.  Any hobbyist or collector whom
willfully violates these laws is an idiot and a criminal, as this behavior will
surely destroy the hobby.  I am very glad that I am considered an eccentric
here in the states, and much in the minority in my passion.  The idea of a
staked out habitat is quite revolting indeed.  As I've said before, I consider
this to be a very meditative and personal quest - one which I prefer to engage
in alone.

> > Far more despicable behavior must have preceded it,
> > the least not being the failure to collect sufficient scientific data on
> > species in the first place.
> After several centuries of collecting we still know comparatively little
> the ecology of many British butterflies. 

Isn't that great?  That's one of the reasons we all love the pursuit so much. 
My point is that the probability of a collector terminating the last of a
species whose ecology is unknown is essentially zero, and that it is this
collecting activity that will ultimately generate the much needed ecological
data to begin with.

Anyway, thanks for the straight up response.  I was probably a little too
accusational in my original post.

Mark Walker.

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