Poetry / Nathaniel Dolton-Thornton
:: Alopochen kervazoi ::
it’s hard to say anything specific when you ask me why an eruption translates into snow how a bark becomes a howl, a howl a yawn strung out on a clothesline between houses where the pulp is a wound the crust sutures with water and rocks soften like bread in our throats
:: Mascarenotus grucheti ::
he marches on stilts through the woods at night to the house he remembers where he knocks on the door shaped like an axe carved out of a ledger in the chimney voices swallow behind them dawn nibbles away at his soles until their shadows surrender
:: Dryophthorus distinguendus ::
you unified the kingdom without a sovereign everyone became their own representative and judge the pigs and rats followed their own laws the egrets sacrificed to the pool
From the writer
:: Account ::
These poems are part of a long series on every recently extinct species.
The Réunion shelduck (Alopochen kervazoi, a.k.a. Mascarenachen kervazoi) was a species of goose endemic to the island of Réunion, one of the Mascarene Islands in the Indian Ocean, where it lived in bodies of freshwater. The species went extinct sometime in the late 17th or early 18th century, likely as a result of hunting and habitat loss. [i] In 1994, Graham S. Cowles identified the bird as a new species, relying on specimens collected in April 1974 by Bertrand Kervazo from a “cave named Grotte des Premiers Français (Grande Caverne), situated about 1.5 km south-west from the centre of Saint-Paul.”
In terms of historical references to the species, Cowles writes, “Bontekoe visited Réunion in 1619, and described the island abounding with geese (Strickland & Melville 1848). Dubois visited the island during the years 1671–72 and notes in his journal, ‘Wild Geese, a little smaller than the Geese of Europe, they have the plumage the same and the beak and feet red’ (Oliver 1897). In 1667 Martin recorded massive destruction and decline of ‘geese’ on the Etang de Saint-Paul (Cheke 1987). Wild ‘geese’ do not exist on Réunion today.” [ii]
This and the following two poems are part of a series on every recently extinct species.
The Réunion owl (Mascarenotus grucheti) was another species endemic to the island of Réunion. As N. Khwaja, S. Mahood, T. Brooks, and R. Martin write for BirdLife International, “This species formerly occurred on the island of Réunion. It was probably driven Extinct after the island was colonised in the early 17th century, as a result of habitat loss, hunting or predation by invasive species.”
Of its distribution, they write, “Mascarenotus grucheti is only known from fossils (Cowles 1987) found on Réunion (to France)(Mourer-Chauviré et al. 1994), and presumably became extinct soon after the island’s colonisation in the early 17th century.”
Of its ecology, they write, “Nothing is known, though it is likely to have been a forest species.” Of its threats, they write, “Hunting, deforestation and the depredations of introduced predators may all be implicated in its decline.” [iii]
In 1994, Cécile Mourer-Chauviré, Roger Bour, François Moutou, and Sonia Ribes identified Mascarenotus grucheti as a new species and placed it, along with Strix sauzieri and Strix (Athene) murivora, in a new genus, Mascarenotus. They described the genus as very similar to the extinct genus Grallistrix, which inhabited the islands of Hawaii. [iv]
Dryophthorus distinguendus was a species of beetle endemic to the islands of Hawaii. As C. Lyal writes for the IUCN Red List, “It was common on several Hawaiian islands in 1926 but has not been located since 1961. The cause of extinction is not known but may include invasive species and habitat degradation.”
Of its range, Lyal writes, “This species was originally described from Hawaii where it was ‘found on nearly all the islands of the group’. It has not been recorded since 1961 and is thought to be extinct.”
Of its habitat and ecology, Lyal writes, “It was probably associated with tropical forest but is now extinct.”
Of its threats, Lyal writes, “The species is thought to be extinct. It was reported to be common in 1926 but has not been recorded since 1961. The threats it faced have not been identified but probably included habitat degradation and invasive species.” [v]
[i] BirdLife International 2016. Alopochen kervazoi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22729490A95017764. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016–3.RLTS.T22729490A95017764.en. Downloaded on 13 October 2019.
[ii] Cowles, G. S. 1994. A new genus, three new species and two new records of extinct Holocene birds from Réunion Island, Indian Ocean. GeoBios 27: 87–93.
[iii] BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Mascarenotus grucheti. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/10/2019.
[iv] Mourer-Chauviré, C., Bour, R., Moutou, F., Ribes, S., 1994. Mascarenotus nov. gen. (Aves, Strigiformes), genre endémique éteint des Mascareignes et M. grucheti n. sp., espéce éteinte de la Réunion. Comptes Rendus de l’Académie des Sciences de Paris série II 318, 1699–1706.
[v] Lyal, C. 2014. Dryophthorus distinguendus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T6862A21424260. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2014–1.RLTS.T6862A21424260.en. Downloaded on 13 October 2019.
Nathaniel Dolton-Thornton’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Tin House and Raritan, among other publications. He is currently collaborating with Yu Yuanyuan, Robert Hass, and Paula Varsano on a book of English translations of the ninth-century Chinese poet Liu Zongyuan. He studies political ecology as a Marshall Scholar at the University of Cambridge.