The chase is on at Natural Science Museum’s new exhibition


A new exhibition at the Brussels Museum of Natural Sciences offers those who can’t go on safari the chance to see wild animals in action

A second life

The latest exhibition at Brussels’ Natural Science Museum is a no-holds-barred depiction of nature red in tooth and claw that marries stunning taxidermy with ingenious feats of engineering. Wonders of Wildlife is no Disney-fied depiction of cute animals all getting along together. Here the chase is on, and it’s kill or be killed.

In a small, moodily lit gallery, 10 exhibits depict a variety of beasts on the hoof and in the chase, like freeze-frames from a wildlife documentary. The exhibition’s abbreviated name – Wow – is appropriate: the displays exude so much energy and movement that you can almost hear David Attenborough’s voice providing the narration as you walk among them.

“It gives people the chance to see the animals in action – what you’d normally see on safari, for example, or in a nature documentary,” Hans Van Lierde, head of the museum’s education department, told Flemish public broadcaster VRT.

A group of ibex are captured mid-leap, high above the heads of young visitors, while a leopard takes down three impala in mid-air. Elsewhere, a tiger takes out a flying wild boar and two lions bring down a terrified-looking zebra, while another zebra appears supremely unruffled as he kicks a third lion squarely in the face.

A lone wolf considers taking his chances with three wild boar, but you know they’ll soon send him packing with his tail between his legs. No animal in its right mind would seriously mess with six of those fearsome tusks.

Look, don’t touch

As you examine the leopard perfectly balanced on its tail, or the airborne procession of ibexes, you might ask yourself where the wires are. Look more closely and you’ll notice that many of the exhibits have the same basic V shape, with some serious foundations to aid that perfect balance. Entire herds of animals hinge on a single paw.

Entire herds of animals hinge on a single paw

It’s a marvel of engineering as well as a beautiful example of the taxidermist’s craft. The 10 scenes are the work of Antonio Pérez from Granada, the Spanish city that’s home to the co-organiser, museum and science park Parque de las Sciencias.

“We’re giving the animals a second life; that’s how I feel about taxidermy,” fellow taxidermist Christophe Demey, who works at the Brussels museum, told VRT. “You have to be fascinated by nature, and I’m also fascinated by the anatomy of animals.”

Bases to each installation serve the dual purpose of concealing the foundations and keeping over-eager young visitors at a suitable distance.

The exhibition is much less interactive than the museum’s previous major show, Baby Animals, which encouraged young visitors to get hands-on with the cute installations. Aside from a few mystery boxes containing claws, antlers and hooves, a couple of touchscreen slideshows and a few casts of animal footprints, inquisitive young minds will have to be content with looking, not touching. Indeed, it’s recommended for over-eights only.

The displays cover topics including animal behaviour, biomechanics and species, and landscape conservation. Maps and short texts in four languages provide clear information about each of the animals displayed, and a video tells the story of reformed poachers in Cambodia.

Until 28 August, Museum of Natural Sciences, Vautierstraat 29, Brussels
Photo: Th.Hubin@Museum