A very great idea? Acclimatisation of animals in Tasmania 1862–1895
The organised acclimatisation of animals from one geographical region to another was a widespread movement from the mid-nineteenth century and was common in the Australasian colonies. Previous studies have underplayed or ignored Tasmania’s acclimatisation experience as shown by the activities of the Tasmanian Acclimatisation Society, formed in 1862 by a small band of enthusiasts for cultural and economic motives. Tasmanian acclimatisers introduced pheasant, partridge, quail, rabbit, hare and deer for hunting, and sparrows and starlings for the familiarity of their songs and to kill insects. When introduced animals reacted in unexpected ways and became pests, it demonstrated the limits of scientific knowledge, the adaptability of introduced species, and the vulnerability of native species and the Tasmanian landscape to new arrivals. Always evoking ambivalent attitudes, critical assessments, most notably by Morton Allport and Louisa Anne Meredith, focused on acclimatisation’s unthinking interference with nature for selfish reasons and its agricultural and ecological impact. Newspapers provide the major source to reveal the motivations and actions of acclimatisers and evidence shows that trial and error acclimatisation proved not to be the ‘very great idea’ that enthusiasts claimed.