RECORD: S31. Wallace, A. R. 1857. [Letter dated 21 August 1856, Lombock]. Zoologist 15 (171-172): 5414-5416.

REVISION HISTORY: Body text helpfully provided by Charles H. Smith from his Alfred Russel Wallace Page

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Mr. A. R. Wallace.* —"Ampanam, Lombock, August 21, 1856.—Another month has passed since I wrote to you, and there is still no chance of a passage to Macassar; having missed one opportunity by

*. Communicated by Mr. S. Stevens.

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being away from the village, I am afraid to go out in the country any more, and here there are nothing but dusty roads and paddy fields for miles around, producing no insects or birds worth collecting: it is really astonishing, and will be almost incredible to many persons at home, that a tropical country when cultivated should produce so little for the collector: the worst collecting-ground in England would produce ten times as many species of beetles as can be found here, and even our common English butterflies are finer and more numerous than those of Ampanam in the present dry season; a walk of several hours with my net will produce perhaps two or three species of Chrysomela and Coccinella, and a Cicindela, and two or three Hemiptera and flies; and every day the same species will occur. In an uncultivated district which I have visited, in the south part of the island, I did indeed find insects rather more numerous, but two months' assiduous collecting have only produced me eighty species of Coleoptera! why there is not a spot in England where the same number could not be obtained in a few days in spring. Butterflies were rather better, for I obtained thirty-eight species, the majority, however, being Pieridæ; of the others, Papilio Peranthus is the most beautiful.

"The birds have, however, interested me much more than the insects, as they are proportionably much more numerous, and throw great light on the laws of geographical distribution of animals in the East. The Islands of Baly and Lombock, for instance, though of nearly the same size, of the same soil, aspect, elevation and climate, and within sight of each other, yet differ considerably in their productions, and, in fact, belong to two quite distinct zoological provinces, of which they form the extreme limits. As an instance, I may mention the cockatoos, a group of birds confined to Australia and the Moluccas, but quite unknown in Java, Borneo, Sumatra and Malacca; one species, however (Plyctolophus sulphureus), is abundant in Lombock, but is unknown in Baly, the island of Lombock forming the extreme western limit of its range and that of the whole family. Many other species illustrate the same fact, and I am preparing a short account of them for publication. My collection here consists of sixty-eight species of birds, about twenty of which are probably not found west of the island, being species either found in Timor and Sumbawa or hitherto undescribed. I have here, for the first time, met with many interesting birds, whose structure and habits it has been a great pleasure to study, such as the Artamidæ and the genera Ptilotis, Tropidorhynchus, Plyctolophus and Megapodius.

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"The islands of Baly and Lombock are inhabited by Malayan races, closely allied to the Javanese. Baly has several rajahs, who are under the protection of the Dutch; Lombock has one rajah, who governs the whole, and is quite independent. These two islands are wonderfully cultivated,—in fact, they are probably among the best cultivated in the world: I was perfectly astonished when, on riding thirty miles into the interior, I beheld the country cultivated like a garden, the whole being cut into terraces, and every patch surrounded by channels, so that any part can be flooded at pleasure; sometimes a hollow has the appearance of a vast amphitheatre, or a hill-side of a gigantic staircase, and hundreds of square miles of an undulated country have been thus rendered capable of irrigation, to effect which almost every stream has been diverted from its channel and its waters distributed over the country. The soil is a fine volcanic mould of the richest description, and the result of such a mode of cultivation is an astonishing fertility; the ground is scarcely ever unoccupied; crops of tobacco, Indian corn, sugar cane, beans and cucumbers, alternate with the rice, and give at every season a green and smiling appearance to the island: it is only on the summits of the hills and on the tops of the undulations, where water cannot be brought, that the ground is left uncultivated, but in these places a short turf gives food to the cattle and horses, which are very abundant, and clumps of bamboos with forest and fruit trees have all the appearance of an extensive park, and a pleasing contrast to the more regularly cultivated districts. I have been informed by parties capable of forming a judgment that in the best cultivated parts of Java so much labour has not been expended on the soil, and even the industrious Chinese can show nothing to surpass it: more than half the Island of Lombock consists of rugged volcanic mountains, which are quite incapable of cultivation, yet it exports more than 20,000 tons of rice annually, besides great quantities of tobacco, coffee, cotton and hides. Our manufacturers and capitalists are on the look-out for a new cotton-producing district: here is one to their hands. The islands of Baly, Lombock and Sumbawa can produce from ten to twenty thousand tons of cotton annually; it costs here uncleaned about 1 1/2 cent a-pound; the qualities are various,—some, I believe, very good, so it can easily be calculated whether, after cleaning, it would pay.

"A. R. Wallace."

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