From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2000:
Ronald Lockley, 96, died on April 12 in Auckland, New Zealand. Lockley did his first nature study while recovering from appendicitis at age 19, but only began to make it his career after he and his first wife Doris tried to raise chinchillas for fur on an offshore island in 1926, failing because they couldn’t catch any. Stuck with a 21-year lease on the island, Lockley wrote the first three of his more than 60 successful nature books plus the screenplay for the 1934 Academy Award-winning documentary T h e Private Life of the Gannet. Lockley’s opus, however, was The Private Life of the Rabbit (1964), acknowledged by Richard Adams as the factual reference which enabled him to write his 1972 best-selling novel W a t e r s h i p Down. Lockley emigrated to New Zealand in 1977 with his third wife, after arranging for his former island home and an estate he later owned on the mainland to become nature reserves. Adams in later life became a curmudgeonly rabbit-hater, but Lockley was last in the public eye as an outspoken critic of the release of rabbit calicivirus to reduce the New Zealand feral rabbit population. It was needlessly cruel, he said, and would not lastingly lower the numbers of rabbits.