Bonnie Griffin, Curator – Natural Sciences
The Natural History Team have started photographing and cataloguing the animals on display in the World Wildlife Gallery as part of a new digitisation project for 2015. Once the project has finished, all the incredible creatures we care for will be available to view on our online collections search.
This means that researchers anywhere in the world can investigate our collections and find specimens for their scientific studies and research. Recently scientists looked at 3D printing a prosthetic beak for an injured toucan, using our specimen as a model, and our tiger was studied as part of a history project, looking at big game hunting in the 20th century.
As most of our taxidermy is over 100 years old, the curators will also use the images to condition check each specimen, making sure our cassowary hasn’t lost a wattle and our thylacine still has his stripes!
Our volunteer Sam Gearing has been recruited as project photographer, taking snaps of the animals each morning before the museum opens. It’s a tricky job with low light levels and reflecting glass but Sam has captured some wonderful photographs which will be uploaded onto our database each week.
One favourite so far is the beautiful South American coati donated by Dr. Riley in 1831. At 184 years old (the coati, not Dr Riley!) he’s still looking wonderfully curious; the taxidermist having skilfully captured the inquisitive nature of these tree-dwelling mammals. Like their close relatives the racoons, coatis have ‘bandit-mask’ face markings, but our coati’s fur has faded after many years on display. In life, coatis are known to eat a wide variety of foods including crocodile eggs and even tarantulas! These intelligent animals must keep their wits about them – hungry ocelots will happily prey on an unsuspecting coati. Our ocelot specimen looks like she might happily prey on an unsuspecting curator too! She’s been a fierce feline since she was donated to the Museum in 1916.
Keep an eye on our blog for updates on the project, or check out our online collections search. You’re always welcome to come to the museum to say hello to our cute coati in person too!