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Peter Menkhorst

Peter Menkhorst

Peter Menkhorst is a zoologist with the Victorian Government’s Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research where he works on a broad range of fauna conservation issues. He has produced field guides to both the mammals and the birds of Australia, most recently The Australian Bird Guide (CSIRO Publishing, 2017).

Peter Menkhorst reviews ‘Koala: Origins of an icon’ by Stephen Jackson and ‘Koala: A historical biography’ by Ann Moyal

November 2008, no. 306 01 November 2008
The koala is one of the most recognised animals in the world. Its beguiling, teddy-bear appearance, inoffensive nature and seeming indifference to the world around it have endeared it to adults and children worldwide. In Australia it is considered a national icon, due in no small part to two characters from popular children’s books: Bunyip Bluegum in Norman Lindsay’s evergreen The Magic Puddin ... (read more)

Peter Menkhorst reviews 'Handbook Of Australian, New Zealand And Antarctic Birds' edited by P.J Higgins and J.M Peter

April 2003, no. 250 01 April 2003
According to my dictionary, a handbook is ‘a short manual or guide-book’. Somebody ought to inform the ornithological world of this, because ‘handbook’ has come to be applied to huge, multi-volume compendia about the bird faunas of particular regions. These books aim to present clearly and concisely all available knowledge about each species, drawing together observations and data from inn ... (read more)

Peter Menkhorst reviews 'What Birdo Is That? A field guide to bird people' by Libby Robin

June 2023, no. 454 24 May 2023
Eminent ecological historian Libby Robin has produced a curious book that examines the changing interests and roles played by those Australians who ‘notice birds and feel they need our help’. She aims to examine the rise of the nature conservation movement in Australia, using ‘Australia’s bird-people’ as a sample of Australians with a love of nature. The catchy title pays homage to Aust ... (read more)

Peter Menkhorst reviews 'Curlews on Vulture Street: Cities, birds, people and me' by Darryl Jones

November 2022, no. 448 25 October 2022
Within the Australian natural history genre, this book stands out: a quirky mix of autobiography, insights into the behaviour and adaptability of familiar Australian birds, and a fine example of the role of science-based enquiry to help solve human–wildlife problems. Darryl Jones, the author, is one of Australia’s most engaging and high-profile ornithologists. Although the tone of this book is ... (read more)

Peter Menkhorst reviews 'Koala: A life in trees' by Danielle Clode

August 2022, no. 445 29 July 2022
This is the third book dedicated to the koala that I have reviewed in ABR in the past fourteen years. That level of attention says much about the place we hold in our hearts for this endearing marsupial. It also relates to the fascinating natural and social history of the koala, along with the wildlife management conundrums it throws up. The koala is probably the most widely recognised of Australi ... (read more)

Peter Menkhorst reviews 'New Guinea: Nature and culture of Earth’s grandest island' by Bruce M. Beehler, photography by Tim Laman

April 2021, no. 430 23 March 2021
Australia’s nearest neighbour, the fabulous New Guinea, is one of the least developed and least known islands on earth. The largest and highest tropical island, it boasts extensive tracts of old-growth tropical forest (second only to the Amazon following massive destruction in Borneo and Sumatra), equatorial alpine environments, extensive lowland swamp forests, and huge abundances and diversitie ... (read more)

Peter Menkhorst reviews 'Continent of Curiosities: A journey through Australian natural history' by Danielle Clode

June 2007, no. 292 01 June 2007
In the late twentieth century, museums throughout the world faced a number of challenges. Confronted with a plethora of flashy new technologies, they struggled to overcome a perception of irrelevance and fustiness. Bureaucrats demanded that museums pay their way, entertain the masses, and meet the growing expectations for instant gratification and information without effort. ... (read more)

Peter Menkhorst reviews 'The Wisdom of Birds: An illustrated history of ornithology' by Tim Birkhead

February 2009, no. 308 01 February 2009
If the history of ornithology seems esoteric, of interest only to specialists, this is the book to open your eyes. Tim Birkhead is an eminent field ornithologist and a gifted and passionate science communicator. Each of these elements shines from this book, a wonderful distillation of the vast ornithological literature that has accumulated over the past four centuries. Effectively a history of nat ... (read more)

Peter Menkhorst reviews 'Boom & Bust: Bird stories for a dry country' edited by Libby Robin, Robert Heinsohn and Leo Joseph

June 2009, no. 312 01 June 2009
The concept behind this book is unusual and ambitious. In twelve essays centred on charismatic birds of Australia’s inland, the authors attempt to provide a deeper understanding of the ecology of arid Australia. They also hope that their writings will provide insights and inspiration about how humans might live there in a more sustainable way. Birds were selected as the linking theme of these es ... (read more)

Peter Menkhorst reviews 'The Dingo Debate' edited by Bradley Smith

October 2015, no. 375 28 September 2015
Australia’s wild dog, the dingo, probably generates the most diverse human responses of any of our fauna – from a determination to exterminate to passionate conservation advocacy. This book is a bold attempt to cover this diversity and asserts that the dingo is a unique wild animal worthy of conservation for its intrinsic value, as well as for its critical role in ecological function and stabi ... (read more)
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