Photo of the week: All bark and no bite

Summary

Brussels’ Museum of Natural Sciences is working full speed to prepare 850 stuffed animals for a brand new gallery

Living Planet

Taxidermist Ellen Carlier works to stuff a wild dog for a new gallery planned for the Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels. Staff there are working full out on a brand new exhibition space that will open later this year.

Living Planet will be a permanent gallery featuring 850 stuffed animal specimens. The collection will cover every order of animal on earth and explore all of the different biotopes they inhabit.

“The idea is to create a total picture of biodiversity on the planet,” said Sophie Boitsios, head of the project at the museum. “Visitors will learn how all the species relate to each other and how the co-exist. It will also provide a better understanding of the problems that the planet is facing.”

Living Planet will inhabit two floors of the museum that previously housed an exhibition on whales. The beloved blue whale skeleton still hangs there and will remain in the new gallery. The new gallery will also be fitted with interactive installations, touchable 3D models and visual media.

Fur extensions

Most of the stuffed animal specimens are from the museum’s vast collection and are being mended and freshened up as needed. Others came from animals that had died at Antwerp Zoo or at animal rescue centres.

The opening of the gallery will be the end of a very long-term project. Preparing all of the animals has been an enourmous effort. “It takes up to a month to prepare a small mammal,” says Ellen Carlier, who is a taxidermist working on the project. “For larger animals, it takes longer. Their skin has to be dipped in large baths.”

Carlier is currently working on a wild dog from Africa. Large patches of its hair are missing from its body. “We are replacing it with hair that we will collect from salons in the Matongé neighbourhood,” she says, referring to Brussels’ lively African quarter. “You can find hair extensions there in any colour and material.”

Photo ©Thierry Roge/BELGA