PRESERVING AND PROTECTING YOUR AFRICAN TROPHY ANIMALS
Preserving and protecting your African trophy animals requires that the client take this requirement into consideration when the initial safari planning process begins. Since a good portion of this requirement involves the possible preservation of taxonomic samples of your animals (i.e. taxidermy work), that specific topic is further explored below under “Taxidermy Options”. However, in any case, the preservation and protection of your African trophy animals involves consideration of the following questions:
1. What animals am I going to hunt?
2. How do I want my memory of those animals preserved? Will I be satisfied with just photographs, or do I wish to have a taxidermist preserve taxonomic samples for me?
3. If I wish taxonomic samples to be preserved, what are my choices?
4. Considering those choices and considering the number and size of the individual species I wish to harvest, do I have room in my house to store them in a respectful and tasteful manner?
5. Who are the key players in helping me through this process?
Safari enthusiasts who have dreamed of the African safari experience for some time will already have some idea of the animals that appeal to them the most. For the enthusiast that has just begun to think about an African safari, the first step is to consider what species are available within the geographical area where the safari is to take place. Also, each African outfitter will have a “species list” or “trophy list” featuring the various animals that outfitter is able to offer prospective clients. Safari enthusiasts may logically use these lists as a sort of “menu” to structure a hunting “wish list”. Look at the choices and associated prices or “trophy fees” associated with each desired animal. Check out images of those animals on the outfitter’s website, or via internet search, and then develop a preferred animal list based on that data search. Finally, establish a safari hunting budget based upon the listed prices.
For clients who have smaller living quarters, or quarters already stocked with taxonomic specimens leaving little space remaining, the decision can be made to forgo preserving taxonomic samples. For these clients, perhaps a photographic record of their harvested animals appeals to them the most. The client is never obligated to take possession of the trophies they harvest, and if a photographic record is all the client requires, then Bushmans Quiver will, free of charge, provide the client with an electronic photographic record of all the animals they have harvested. If this selection is made, all physical parts of the carcass will still be put to good use locally; nothing will go to waste.
If taxonomic samples are to be preserved, then the client will want to speak to a taxidermist early in the planning process to determine what possibilities are available and at what cost. It is recommended that the client speak to at least three potential taxidermists in making a decision as to what choices are available and at what cost. During this period the client should meet with the taxidermist in person if at all possible to examine their work, consider various animal poses, and ask questions relative to pricing, quality of work, and delivery times. It is a good idea at this meeting to have a scaled drawing of the respective walls where the taxidermy mountings are likely to be positioned showing the location of major pieces of furniture, location of windows and doors, etc. Photographs of each wall space matching the scaled drawings are also useful. None of this has to be architectural renderings, simply complete the best hand sketch you can and take a good straight-on photograph of each wall with your digital camera or cell phone. Your taxidermist will review this material with you, will show you various animal poses (taxidermy forms) available for selection, and suggest various wall layouts based upon the animal species you have identified. Ask to see some of the taxidermist’s work-in-process as well as some of his/her completed work. This will give you some idea of the volume of work he handles and thus how much in demand he is. Ask her what process she uses in completing a mount, and ask what maintenance effort you must put forth in keeping your mounts in serviceable condition throughout the years you will own them. Ask the taxidermist to provide this “maintenance schedule” to you in writing. If they don’t have one this is another indication of their commitment (or lack thereof) to quality.
Your taxidermist should provide you a price estimate for the level of work you wish to have done. You can also glean valuable information from your taxidermist about the importation process necessary to import your raw animal trophies (e.g. skins, horns, skulls, bones, etc.) into your country of residence. Ask your taxidermist for a list of references and check those references.
This brings us to the point of mentioning another important entity in getting your trophies safely back home to you, and that is the Customs Broker. You must employ the services of an experienced customs broker in order to import animal parts into your country of residence. You can use the recommendation of your taxidermist, speak to our references, or select a broker from the phone book yellow pages or internet search. You should be speaking to candidate customs brokers at about the same time you are speaking to candidate taxidermists. Customs brokers insure that all the existing laws, as well as current regulations of the Department of Agriculture and Fish & Wildlife Service (for US citizens) are followed and documented. Ask your customs broker about the importation process, how they coordinate with overseas shippers, and the fees necessary to complete the process. Ask them for a list of references and check those references.
As always, please feel free to consult with us at Bushmans Quiver about any aspect of the safari planning process that concerns you.
In the above section PRESERVING AND PROTECTING YOUR AFRICAN TROPHY ANIMALS we touched on the topic of taxidermy. Now we will get into the topic in more detail.
The information contained here is intended to provide the prospective client with sufficient information to enable them to incorporate taxonomic preservation concepts into their safari planning and to provide them a basis for interacting with their taxidermist of choice in an intelligent and informed manner. We are not taxidermists, nor do we have taxidermists on our staff.
As we intimated in our article cited above, clients may avoid taxidermy expense altogether by electing to leave their trophies in RSA. Some clients are happy to return to their country of residence with nothing more than the excellent photographs of their harvested trophies that we provide them. This is strictly a personal choice. If this election is made the client may rest assured that no part of the animals left behind will be wasted.
If the client decides to preserve taxonomic specimens of their trophies then the decision facing the client is in what manner to preserve them. Making this choice will be dictated by three factors:
1. The client’s personal preferences.
2. The amount of space available to display the specimens.
3. The client’s budget for taxidermy work.
As to personal preferences, the client has possibly 11 categories to consider:
1. The full-body mount (Figure 1)
2. The half-body mount (Figure 2)
3. The traditional shoulder-mount, both flat-backed and angle-backed (Figure 3)
4. The drop-shoulder-mount (Figure 4)
5. The neck-mount (not shown)
6. The pedestal mount (Figure 5)
7. The flat-skin (Figure 6)
8. The flat-skin with full head attached (Figure 7)
9. The back-skin (Figure 8)
10. European mount (Figure 9)
11. Specialty items (Figure 10)
The full-body mount involves a life-size taxonomic specimen of the trophy animal posed in accordance with the client’s instructions.
The half-body mount includes the front half of a full-body mount.
The traditional shoulder-mount consists of the head and neck and a portion of both front shoulders to give the specimen a sense of dimension and depth. This would be the type mount most of us are familiar with.
The drop-shoulder-mount is similar except it displays a larger portion of one shoulder to give the mount more definition.
The neck mount was an older mounting format typical of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century before good taxidermy forms were commonly available. Only the head and a small part of the neck forward of the shoulders is displayed. This type mount still has a place in today’s choices because of the extremely long length of giraffe necks. Thus, it is reserved almost exclusively for that species where wall space is at a premium.
Think of a pedestal mount as a shoulder-mount set on a pedestal. The purpose of a pedestal mount is several fold. For one, it places the mount closer to eye-level, which many people find appealing. For trophy specimens that are quite tall (e.g. kudu, etc.) it avoids the situation where the horn tips are nearly piercing the ceiling. It provides a nice counter-balance to a broad wall filled to the brim with shoulder-mounts. It is the best mount for livening up a corner where no other item of furniture fits very well. The pedestal itself can be an additional decorative item (maps, skin panels, photographs, etc.), or storage cabinet for hunting accessories. Pedestal mounts are particularly adept at displaying several specimens of smaller antelope (e.g. a grand slam of springbok). Pedestal mounts offer the client the opportunity to face the animal in different directions based upon the client’s whim of the moment. Finally, the back of the pedestal mount does not have to have the same flat surface of the typical shoulder-mount. Thus, a bit of artistic flair can be added to a pedestal mount that the flat-backed shoulder-mount does not have.
The flat-skin mount consists of the full skin of the entire animal opened up along a line transversing the belly-line from chin to end of the tail. Thus, the flat-skin mount is for laying on the floor, pinned against a wall, or perhaps draped across the back of a couch. Three types of finishing details are typically available: raw tanned skin, felt-backed skin, or felt-backed with leather edge trim. This is a favored treatment for zebras due to the unique patterning of zebra skins across the length of the back; no two are alike.
The flat-skin mount with full head attached consists of the flat-skin as described above, but the head is preserved in 3-dimensional format. This display is most typically done with lions (and sometimes zebras), but could include other species as well.
The back-skin is what is left of a full skin after the animal has been caped for a shoulder-mount or pedestal mount. It consists of the skin over a very small portion of the back and both hindquarters. These can be used as flat displays over end tables and other similar uses. They can also be made into decorative pillows, and used for any number of leather-craft projects according to the depth of the owner’s imagination (hatbands, rifle slings, belts, etc. are some common uses).
The European form of mounting is probably the oldest form of preserving taxonomic specimens. In this form, the skull (with horns attached —- if they exist) is cleaned, bleached and preserved in its bare form without any treatment to skin or eyes. This form of preservation is simple and straightforward and is typically the cheapest form of preservation and the most space-saving. The skull is typically mounted to a suitable carved plaque which itself is attached to a wall in the same fashion as a shoulder-mount.
Specialty items consist of any use of taxonomic parts not included in the previous categories. For instance, feet can be made into bookends, lamp stands, and other ornamental fixtures. Off-cuts of skin can be made into pillows, belts, hatbands, rifle slings, book covers, etc. whatever the imagination can conceive.
In determining the amount of space to be allocated to the display of taxonomic specimens, take careful inventory of both the wall space and floor space suited for this purpose. Typically, most mounts will be wall mounts, but pedestal mounts and flatskins will most likely require floor space. Look for underutilized locations throughout the living space and make your decision on how to display your specimens based upon this assessment. As to the positioning of wall mounts two perspectives are prevalent. One is to have the mounts mimic the way you remember seeing the animal in the bush. The other is to coordinate the collection of mounts so that collectively they present some semblance of harmony and balance.
If you see that you are going to run out of space in your primary residence, other locations for consideration are your office or vacation home. Also, if you find yourself completely out of space often your local gun shop or club will consider the positioning of taxidermist work in their space for to enhance their decorative motifs. Finally, If you already have examples of domestic taxonomic work on display in your home, you may wish to consider separating your domestic specimens from your African specimens as having them displayed separately will lend a certain visual cohesiveness to each display if they are not intermixed.
The amount of taxidermy expense is a function of the following (non-exclusive) factors: (1) number of animals to be treated (2) size of each individual animal (3) species (4) treatment to be applied (e.g. full-body mount, shoulder mount, flatskin, rug w/head attached, backskin, custom accessories, etc.) (5) any need for reconstructive work, etc. Thus, you can see why Bushmans Quiver does not provide estimates of taxidermy expense; it is simply outside our professional purview.
If the client desires to have taxidermy work completed on trophies they have taken the work can either be done in RSA or in the client’s home country. Our dip & ship affiliate works closely with a local taxidermist that will provide cost estimates upon request. Generally, we find taxidermy work can be done with less expense in RSA than other locations, however the savings is generally offset by the additional shipping expense required for the larger crates necessary to accommodate finished mounts. Also, for work done in RSA, once the work is completed the client is sent an Invoice which must be paid in a timely manner in order to receive the finished work. Thus, some clients opt to have the treated (dipped) taxonomic specimens crated and shipped to their selected taxidermist in their home country where they can spread out the cost of the work over many months, if not years. Thus, the client is advised to speak to several taxidermists of their choosing in their home country prior to departing on safari. During this visit discuss your plans and issues with them and select the taxidermist that you feel best meets your expectations. Taxidermy work (like many things) is something where you pretty much get what you pay for. If you want cheap prices and fast completion times, you probably should expect lower quality than if you want museum quality work and are willing to wait on delivery times and do not blanche at the prices. Again, this is all a matter of personal taste and expectations.
As always, please feel free to consult with us at Bushmans Quiver about any aspect of the safari planning process that concerns you.