Protectors of Our Environment: Otago Acclimatisation Society, the History of the Introduction of Deer to Otago by Peter Harker


Published 1973 | Value $150 – $250

Compiled and edited by Peter Harker, this short and interesting book outlines the history of the importation and release of deer to the Otago region by the Otago Acclimatisation Society and provides some background to the Society itself.

Published in 1973, it documents the Society’s key events from 1860 to around the time of publishing. The book’s long title is indicative of its subject matter — Protectors of Our Environment: Otago Acclimatisation Society, the History of the Introduction of Deer to Otago.

Four species of deer were procured and liberated in the latter part of the 1800s. They were:

  • Axis or chital deer from the Sub-Continent
  • Japanese or sika deer from Japan and China
  • Fallow deer from English park stock
  • Red deer from Scottish Highland stock and subsequent introductions of English park deer

Only the fallow deer and red deer thrived and endure to this day in the Otago region.

Both surviving herds produced exceptional trophy antlers, especially during the period from the 1890s through to the 1930s but the odd exceptional head is still taken by lucky deerstalkers to this day.

Peter also notes that chamois and tahr, both alpine dwellers, were considered for introduction by the Society but were dismissed as a viable option because it was too costly an undertaking. It later transpired, however, that their releases in the Southern Alps near Mount Cook were carried out by the Government.

The book has the following major subject headings:

  • The Birth of the Society
  • Rules & Objects
  • Axis Deer
  • Fallow Deer
  • Red Deer
  • Japanese Deer
  • Chamois
  • Steady Decline

Around half of the content is dedicated to the Otago red deer herd and its trophy heads. Many black and white photos of trophies and of historical hunting scenes are included, some of which do not seem to be included in other publications, so those images will be of particular interest to readers.

The number and quality of these photos are what makes this book very desirable to hunting book collectors.  Recently, secondhand copies have appeared for sale and are fetching fairly high prices, around $150–$250 depending on condition. This is because it is a rare book about a highly sought after subject, the Highland red deer of Otago.

I have only seen a copy of Protectors of Our Environment in the reference section of public libraries, which means it cannot be borrowed as you may only read it within the library, but it’s well worth the trip just to peruse the images.

Peter has also authored Hunting with Harker (1976), Harker Hunts the Coast (1982), Those Were The Days: Hunting the way it used to be (2001) and Random Shots (2005).

The Hunter’s recommendation is: buy it (but you will most likely have to borrow it)

The Hunter’s ratings are:

  • Overall rating: 7.5 out of 10
  • Photos and illustrations: 4 out of 5
  • Trophy quality: 5 out of 5
  • Writing quality and style: 3 out of 5
  • Page-turner status: 3 out of 5

Publisher’s blurb

For your information the following is the book’s blurb:

Acclimatisation Societies were founded by our pioneer settlers with perhaps a great yearning for some reminders of the homeland they had left, in most cases, for all time.
Their enthusiasm is to be admired, their judgement is most frequently criticised with the lofty knowledge conferred by “hind-sight”.
There are those who would lay blame for every mistaken introduction at their door, in very many cases, wrongly, I am glad to say.
It is because of the lessons of the past that proposals today are seldom converted to actions without scientific study and advice and without careful weighing of possible repercussions.
The very name has little significance today and could well be changed to one more compatible with the modern role of conservation and management of fish and game, protection of protected species and of the environment.

Bibliographic information

Title: Protectors of Our Environment: Otago Acclimatisation Society, the History of the Introduction of Deer
Author: P. J. (Peter) Harker (1943 –)
Editions: 1973
Publisher: Otago Acclimatisation Society, Otago, New Zealand
Format: Soft cover, magazine style, 40 pages (unnumbered), black & white, 30 cm/A4 size

Book review of Protectors of Our Environment by Peter Harker book review