The first name you were given by us was Mātuhituhi. Did you know that? In those days, we coexisted quite happily.
Later, we called you Bush Wren.
We wanted to classify you, so we decided that you belonged in the genus of New Zealand wrens, Xenicus.
We gave you another name, Xenicus Longipes, ‘the long-footed one’.
You used to live in the forest; you didn’t really fly very well, but that didn’t matter – you were safe in the forest and could move around easily with your long feet. You were so little: only 9cm long and weighing just 16g.
You built your nests on the ground, which was perfectly safe; that was how you’d always done it.
It didn’t take very long for us to destroy you, without really noticing. Less than 100 years to kill you all.
We discovered you. We named you. We categorised you.
We killed you. We tried to save you. We failed you.
You lived in what is now New Zealand, perhaps for hundreds, thousands of years before we came to your home. Then we brought predators, deliberately and accidentally, who gradually took over. It wasn’t that long before there were only a few of you left, and then just one. And then no more.
No more births and no more deaths.
We tried to stop it, but it was too late. We tried to find a way to keep you alive, but it didn’t work.
We lost you. We killed you.
You were unique and you were sacred. We are diminished by your loss.
We had no right to do this to you. You did not deserve this.
I am sorry.
I remember you. Even though you and I were never on this Earth at the same time.
You are significant to me and I will not forget your names. I will not forget what you look like.
I will not forget you.
"Matuhituhi, the New Zealand Bush Wren, For the last couple of years the local community have been creating and tending a life cairn in Totnes, Devon. When we first created it, each person carried a rock and placed it on the cairn, while naming an extinct species. Matuhituhi was the species I was given, so I decided to find out everything I could about this little bird, and to write a memorial piece to it and to make a drawing."