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  2. The Reptiles of Angola: History, Diversity, Endemism and Hotspots
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  4. Taxidermy Fume Control

Embalmed animals have been found with Egyptian mummies. Although embalming incorporates the use of lifelike poses, it is not considered taxidermy. In the Middle Ages , crude examples of taxidermy were displayed by astrologers and apothecaries. The earliest methods of preservation of birds for natural history cabinets were published in by Reaumur in France. Techniques for mounting were described in by M. There were several pioneers of taxidermy in France, Germany, Denmark and England around this time.

For a while, clay was used to shape some of the soft parts, but this made specimens heavy. By the 19th century, almost every town had a tannery business.

The term "stuffing" or a "stuffed animal" evolved from this crude form of taxidermy. Professional taxidermists prefer the term "mounting" to "stuffing". More sophisticated cotton-wrapped wire bodies supporting sewn-on cured skins soon followed. This technique enabled the museum to build the greatest collection of birds in the world.

Dufresne's methods spread to England in the early 19th century, where updated and non-toxic methods of preservation were developed by some of the leading naturalists of the day, including Rowland Ward and Montague Brown. However, the art of taxidermy remained relatively undeveloped, and the specimens that were created remained stiff and unconvincing.

The golden age of taxidermy was during the Victorian era , when mounted animals became a popular part of interior design and decor. For the Great Exhibition of in London , he mounted a series of stuffed birds as an exhibit. They generated much interest among the public and scientists alike who considered them as superior to earlier models and were regarded as the first lifelike and artistic specimens on display. Hancock's display sparked great national interest in taxidermy, and amateur and professional collections for public view proliferated rapidly. Displays of birds were particularly common in middle-class Victorian homes — even Queen Victoria amassed an impressive bird collection.

Taxidermists were also increasingly used by the bereaved owners of dead pets to 'resurrect' them. In the late 19th century a style known as anthropomorphic taxidermy became popular. A 'Victorian whimsy', mounted animals were dressed as people or displayed as if engaged in human activities. Among his other scenes were "a rat's den being raided by the local police rats Potter's museum was so popular that an extension was built to the platform at Bramber railway station. Other Victorian taxidermists known for their iconic anthropomorphic taxidermy work are William Hart and his son Edward Hart.

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Both William and Edward created multiple sets of these dioramas. One 4-piece set of boxing squirrel dioramas circa sold at auction in for record prices. The four dioramas were created as a set with each diorama portraying the squirrels at a different stage during their boxing match , however, the set was broken up and each was sold separately at the same auction. The set was one of a number they created over the years featuring boxing squirrels.

The Reptiles of Angola: History, Diversity, Endemism and Hotspots

Famous examples of modern anthropomorphic taxidermy include the work of artist Adele Morse who gained international attention with her " Stoned Fox " sculpture series [20] and the work of artist Sarina Brewer , known for her Siamese twin squirrels and flying monkeys partaking in human activities.

In the early 20th century, taxidermy was taken forward under the leadership of artists such as Carl Akeley , James L. Clark, William T.


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These and other taxidermists developed anatomically accurate figures which incorporated every detail in artistically interesting poses, with mounts in realistic settings and poses that were considered more appropriate for the species. This was quite a change from the caricatures popularly offered as hunting trophies.

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Additional modern uses of Taxidermy have been the use of "Faux Taxidermy" or fake animal heads that draw on the inspiration of traditional taxidermy. Decorating with sculpted fake animal heads that are painted in different colors has become a popular trend in interior design. Rogue taxidermy sometimes referred to as "taxidermy art" [23] is a form of mixed media sculpture.

There is a very broad spectrum of styles within the genre, some of which falls into the category of mainstream art. The methods taxidermists practice have been improved over the last century, heightening taxidermic quality and lowering toxicity. The animal is first skinned in a process similar to removing the skin from a chicken prior to cooking. This can be accomplished without opening the body cavity, so the taxidermist usually does not see internal organs or blood.


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Depending on the type of skin, preserving chemicals are applied or the skin is tanned. It is then either mounted on a mannequin made from wood, wool and wire, or a polyurethane form. Clay is used to install glass eyes. Forms and eyes are commercially available from a number of suppliers.

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If not, taxidermists carve or cast their own forms. Taxidermists seek to continually maintain their skills to ensure attractive, lifelike results. Mounting an animal has long been considered an art form, often involving months of work; not all modern taxidermists trap or hunt for prize specimens.

Animal specimens can be frozen, then thawed at a later date to be skinned and tanned. Numerous measurements are taken of the body. A traditional method that remains popular today involves retaining the original skull and leg bones of a specimen and using these as the basis to create a mannequin made primarily from wood wool previously tow or hemp wool was used and galvanised wire.

Another method is to mould the carcass in plaster, and then make a copy of the animal using one of several methods. A final mould is then made of polyester resin and glass cloth, from which a polyurethane form is made for final production. The carcass is then removed and the mould is used to produce a cast of the animal called a 'form'. Forms can also be made by sculpting the animal first in clay. Many companies produce stock forms in various sizes. Glass eyes are then usually added to the display, and in some cases, artificial teeth, jaws, tongue, or for some birds, artificial beaks and legs can be used.


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An increasingly popular trend is to freeze dry the animal. For all intents and purposes, a freeze-dried mount is a mummified animal. The internal organs are removed during preparation; however, all other tissue remains in the body.

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The skeleton and all accompanying musculature is still beneath the surface of the skin The animal is positioned into the desired pose, then placed into the chamber of a special freeze drying machine designed specifically for this application. The machine freezes the animal and also creates a vacuum in the chamber.

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Pressure in the chamber helps vaporize moisture in the animal's body, allowing it to dry out. The rate of drying depends on vapor pressure. The higher the pressure, the faster the specimen dries. Large specimens may require up to six months in the freeze dryer before they are completely dry. Freeze drying is the most popular type of pet preservation. This is because it is the least invasive in terms of what is done to the animal's body after death, which is a concern of owners Most owners do not opt for a traditional skin mount.

In the case of large pets, such as dogs and cats, freeze drying is also the best way to capture the animal's expression as it looked in life another important concern of owners. Freeze drying equipment is costly and requires much upkeep. The process is also time-consuming; therefore, freeze drying is generally an expensive method to preserve an animal. The drawback to this method is that freeze-dried mounts are extremely susceptible to insect damage. This is because they contain large areas of dried tissue meat and fat for insects to feed upon.