More than 20,000 species of plants and animals around the world are currently under threat of extinction, and hundreds vanish each year. We don’t always know the exact time of extinction, but for the Pinta Island giant tortoise, the date was June 24, 2012.
Over the last two years, Wildlife Preservations taxidermy experts have worked closely with Museum scientists to preserve Lonesome George as he appeared in life—down to a missing toenail on his left front foot.
Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island giant tortoise, was unveiled at the Museum this afternoon. He will be on public view for just over 3 months, through January 4, 2015. Museum scientists worked closely with taxidermy experts to preserve Lonesome George as he appeared in life.
SPOTTED SKUNK AND RINGTAIL (CACOMISTLE) - June at Sunset, New Mexico
In this diorama, the last rays of the June sun catch one face of the striking landform known as Shiprock. The remarkable handstand of the spotted skunk (left) is a warning to discourage the two curious ringtails (right) from getting any closer. If this pose doesn’t work, the skunk will release jets of foul-smelling musk from glands under its tail.
Ringtails also combine chemistry with defensive body language. Here, one ringtail has made its tail fur stand upright, creating the illusion of larger size. If the standoff escalates, the ringtail might curve its tail over its head, and—as a last resort—emit its own smelly secretion.
It begins with the positioning of the skeleton, then modeling the wolf form with plaster of paris, followed by the making of a cast, ending with a completed paper manikin which the wolf skin is fitted over.
When Theodore Roosevelt became President in 1901, he was poised to use his lifelong passion for wildlife and wilderness to direct public policy. While in office, he placed 230 million acres of land under federal protection and established five national parks.
The background of the American marten diorama, which was painted by James Perry Wilson, depictsCrater Lake, the giant water-filled caldera that was created when an immense volcano exploded and collapsed more than 7,000 years ago.
Akeley is also remembered for his contributions to conservation. In the course of researching and collecting specimens to create the now-famous mountain gorilla diorama, he was among the first to accurately document mountain gorillas as intelligent and social animals that, even then, were under grave threat from overhunting. His research inspired him to dedicate the last few years of his life to the conservation and protection of the mountain gorilla.
If anyone was born to work at the American Museum of Natural History, it is Stephen C. Quinn, who retired this spring after 39 years as an artist in the Department of Exhibition. (As family folklore has it, 4-year-old Steve pointed to the elephants in the Akeley Hall of African Mammals during one visit and announced, “This is where I want to work!”)
This past weekend, Quinn was honored with the Garden State Taxidermists Association’s Hansen-Schneider Lifetime Achievement Award, for his long, productive career and for encouraging many young people in the Museum arts of painting, sculpture, taxidermy, and more.
Originally created back in 1941, two cougars in our Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals were missing an essential feature. Over the years, they’d lost their whiskers—called vibrissae—that may help cats navigate and track prey into small spaces. So conservators and taxidermists looked long and hard for a replacement material.
How did Museum taxidermists and artists create true-to-life specimens for our habitat dioramas, including the evocative cougar (mountain lion) diorama pictured here?
Artist Stephen C. Quinn explains the multi-step process in this video.
Image (c) AMNH/C. Chesek
Young Theodore Roosevelt loved studying nature, particularly birds. As a teen, he was able to identify most bird species in the northeastern U.S. by their song, flight pattern, courtship behavior, and plumage.
He collected and mounted this Snowy Owl near Oyster Bay, Long Island in 1876, the same year he entered Harvard. It will return to public view when the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall reopens on October 27.
To create the lifelike moments in the Museum’s dioramas, artisans made meticulously accurate animal sculptures following a method developed by legendary explorer and taxidermist Carl Akeley. Artist Stephen C. Quinn explains how in this video.