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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP
Federal Member for Murray
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
for the Environment and Heritage

27 July 1999


Australia's most important, privately owned collection of native bird eggs has been donated to the CSIRO's Australian National Wildlife Collection, bringing with it significant biological information about native birdlife over the past 50 years.

"90 year old Gordon Ragless, from South Australia, has devoted a lifetime to documenting native birds, their breeding habits and clutches. His collection, so generously donated to the CSIRO today, will ensure that legacy is preserved and studied for many years to come."

Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment and Heritage, speaking at the hand-over of the Ragless Egg Collection, said the collection was exceptional because it contained eggs from 90% of Australia's 590 breeding species of birds.

"This collection contains some 5000 clutches of eggs complete with meticulously collected and documented biological data."

"In many cases Mr Ragless was the first to discover new scientific and biological facts about Australia's native birds. In 1968, for example, he discovered the first clutch of eggs from the Chestnut-breasted Whiteface, a species not before known to science."

"His egg collection was also instrumental in ground-breaking DNA studies conducted by Professor Charles Sibley in documenting the evolution of modern birds."

"Mr Ragless' achievements are even more remarkable considering his lack of formal, scientific training and the often perilous conditions he risked to collect the eggs."

The Ragless Egg Collection will form part of the Australian National Wildlife Collection, managed by the CSIRO. The national collection includes 50,000 bird specimens, representing 95% of Australian species, 25,000 mammal specimens (75%), 2,500 reptile specimens (70%) and wildlife library and deep-frozen tissue samples for molecular studies.

"Birdlife is particularly important in biological studies. With the environment under increasing pressure, birds are vital indicators of the health of ecosystems, encroaching threats like land clearing and feral pests, and the success of land and water rehabilitation efforts."

"In practice, the scientific knowledge gained through painstaking hours of field studies and research underpins everyday conservation efforts around the country," Dr Stone said.

The hand-over of the Ragless Egg Collection coincides with the Australian National Wildlife Collection's fiftieth anniversary.

At the hand-over in Canberra, a commemorative emu egg and inscribed plaque were presented to John Ragless, on behalf of his father, who was unable to attend the celebrations.

For further information please contact:
Nicole Johnston, Assistant Adviser, 02 6277 2016 or 0419 219 415

Commonwealth of Australia