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Saturday 10 December 2016

Ever wanted to shampoo a tiger? It's a dying art

Published 25/08/2010 | 05:00

THEY may be stuffed, but the residents of the 'Dead Zoo' still need the occasional makeover.

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The newly reopened Natural History Museum in Dublin's Merrion Street is looking for a taxidermist to help restore some of its exhibits to their former glory.

From the Indian tiger in need of a shampoo and blow-dry to the monochrome panda hidden under a layer of dust, there has been lots of work done to ensure the exhibits are kept looking their best for another 150 years

In recent times, a firm of Dutch taxidermists has successfully restored a range of zoo residents, including the almost 100-year-old tiger.

"We've done a lot of the larger mammals already from the first floor, they had about 80 years worth of dirt, neglect and filth cascading down on them," said museum keeper Nigel Monaghan.

"We had a panda who had faded so much you couldn't see the two different colours. He's had a hair tint so now you can see his proper colours," he added.

"For the next stage we're moving up to the balcony area, so birds are going to be our main business over the next few years," said Mr Monaghan.

Hunters

With just a handful of taxidermists currently working in Ireland, and most of them concentrating on stuffing foxes and pheasants for hunters, Mr Monaghan said they may need to look further afield.

"People often ironically refer to taxidermy as a 'dying art'. Taxidermists will probably need to have worked in some of the bigger European museums to get the experience and skills we need." he added.

"In terms of the skill set, it's a very eccentric craft and very few people are doing it," he said.

As part of the taxidermist's job, the animal's skin has to be peeled away and processed in much the same way as leather is tanned for a jacket.

While older stuffed animals have sawdust inside a wooden frame, modern taxidermists build a fibre glass or foam model before stitching the skin on top.

The museum is seeking a company or individual taxidermist who will be experienced enough to work on a range of exhibits from birds and mammals to fish, amphibians and reptiles. The four-year contract will be worth between €150,000 and €250,000.

Irish Independent

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