Wednesday, October 03, 2007


DON MERTON- THE MAN WHO SAVED THE BLACK ROBIN
Alison Ballance Reed Publishing $60

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am not a great reader of biographies but when this book landed on my desk I just knew I had to read it.
I have long admired Don Merton and his amazing achievements in the preservation of New Zealand wildlife.

Back in 1993 while at Scholastic we published “Old Blue – The Rarest Bird in the World” by artist and writer Mary Taylor and at that time I got to know about the work of Don Merton as an outstanding manager of endangered species. That book by the way remains in print to this day and has sold over 30,000 copies. And it was also published in Japanese!

When he began his black robin breeding programme there were only five of the tiny birds in existence. Today their numbers exceed 250 spread across several of our offshore islands.

Alison Ballance's prolifically illustrated book is the story of Don and his life’s work from his birth in Devonport, growing up in Gisborne, life as a trainee with the Wildlife Service , marriage and family, and all the simply amazing wildlife adventures throughout his life until his official retirement from the Department of Conservation in 2005. What a story.

Thanks Don for all that you have done, not only for the black robin but for all our native bird species and for teaching us about the need to keep our fragile ecosystems in balance. You are a great New Zealander.
And I note that I was a year or so behind you at both Gisborne Intermediate School and Gisborne Boys High School.

Author Alison Ballance is a natural history writer and film maker with a passion for telling stories about our endangered wildlife. She is the perfect person to tell Don Merton’s story. She has published several titles previously and has a book on the Southern Alps due out shortly.

The book has an excellent index, various appendices and an extensive bibliography.
Copies of this book should be in every school and public library.
Inspirational.
Footnote:
Bookman Beattie bought the original art by Mary Taylor featured on the cover of Old Blue and today it hangs in pride of place on his office wall.

3 comments:

IndianWildlifeClub said...

The black Indian robin and his brown wife wake me up in the morning with their sweet music. The world would be poorer if we were to lose these little birds ever!

IndianWildlifeClub said...

The black Indian robin and his brown wife wake me up in the morning with their sweet music. The world would be poorer if we were to lose these little birds ever!

Rebel said...

This is a great book about a wonderful person. Don Merton has accomplished so much, yet is the most humble and nicest person I know. He has truly made a difference in the world and I am so proud that he is my friend. I am not in New Zealand, unfortunately, but I try to help the Kakapo parrot as much as I can. I'll be glad when their numbers reach those of the Black Robin. I believe it is because of Don that the Kakapos will survive and that the Black Robin didn't go extinct. Don is a bird genius!