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May 17, 2021

Craft of preserving dead animals on the verge of extinction

May 17, 2021

PESHAWAR: A mounted dead lioness displayed at the entrance to the Wildlife office with a tag hung on its neck `Ghost of Galliyat’ terrifies visitors because of the appearance made possible through taxidermy - the craft of preparing, stuffing and mounting the skins of dead animals and birds with lifelike effects.

The human eater lioness that had devoured six women within a few days and spread terror in Galliyat in 2006 was so perfectly preserved and stuffed by, taxidermist Abdul Rehman, which continues to cause terror posthumously by giving the impression of a real leopard starring angrily at visitors with long canines being visible due to open jaws.

Abdul Rehman, the only taxidermist working with KP Wildlife Department for the last 36 years, has stuffed and mounted almost all the wild species found in the province and 250 of his pieces are on display at the department museum.

Unfortunately, the rare skill of preserving dead animals and birds is heading towards death because of extreme paucity of professional taxidermists in the country.

In the entire KP, which is providing habitat to the maximum number of wild species including mammals, birds and reptiles present in the country, has only one taxidermist responsible for preserving any dead species.

Abdul Rehman will soon reach the age of superannuation. After his retirement, the Wildlife Department will have no other professional taxidermist to work with same deftness.

“I learn this skill from my uncle, Aurangzeb Khan Jadoon who worked at Lahore zoo,” Abdul Rehman informed the Associated Press of Palistan (APP) in a detailed chat adding it took him around six years to learn the skill. He said three sons of Aurangzeb Khan have inherited the art and adopted it as a profession but in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab.

Abdul Rehman said the taxidermy craft was introduced in this part of the world by the British who trained a few locals including Aurangzeb Khan Jadoon in the skill. “There are a few other professional

taxidermists in Karachi, Islamabad, Jehlum and other cities, but in KP, I am the only one”, he says.

The expert said he had imparted training to his son who practices taxidermy occasionally at the request of friends.

“My son is doing the skill in the private sector by stuffing pet animals being brought by owners,” he said while elaborating on his statement.

Abdur Rehman pointed out that that taxidermy of wild species had been banned under the Wildlife and Biodiversity Act, but fancy pet birds and animals which were not wild could be preserved for business purposes.

He had no exact information on the number of taxidermists in Pakistan, but added that the National Conservation Council was gathering information to compile the data on the subject.

The skilled man believed taxidermy could be used to preserve rare wild species by creating awareness through the display of dead animals and birds.

“People who visit the museum of the Wildlife Department witness such rare species which is not possible for them to see by themselves in the wild.

“Through the display of dead animals, people get awareness and knowledge about different kinds of wild species”, he explained, adding similarly, students get to know the features, colours and body parts of different wild species by observing stuffed animals and birds,” he goes on to add.

“The craft of preserving dead animals and human beings is ancient, but is not given due consideration as there is no institution in our country to give a formal education on it,” said Bilal Mustafa, the Research Scientist at the Zoology Department Govt College in Lahore as he talked to this agency.

Bilal said it is a matter of concern that the number of taxidermists in the country is very meagre and the craft is on the verge of extinction.

He said there were a number of zoos in the country, and according to set rules there must a museum within the vicinity of every zoo for display of all kinds of dead animals, birds and reptiles through stuffing and mounting.

“A lot of dead animals are being dumped in waste or buried for lack of time to send the carcasses to taxidermists for preservation and display.

Through this skill, our country can earn a lot of foreign exchange even by stuffing those birds and animals whose hunting is allowed on seasonal basis”, he went on to add.

The official said a lot of black partridges and ducks were killed during the hunting season and if the features of the hunted down birds were utilized for taxidermy, it could create livelihood opportunities for a large number of people. Likewise, he continued, many peacocks died in Sindh of natural causes and if the proper preservation of these dead birds could fetch a handsome earning for both the taxidermists and the departments.

The research scientist said some people were highly attached with pet animals and birds who in case of their deaths wanted to preserve them and keep at home but could not go for that in the absence of professional taxidermists. He said under the set rules of the Wildlife Protection, taxidermy should be promoted as a source of earning livelihoods and creating awareness among masses and for the educational purpose as well.

He said a number of foreign hunters who come to Pakistan for hunting of Markhor after paying hefty amounts and the entire practice was being done just for display of the preserved trophy at their home.

“Taxidermy needs official attention and patronage for saving this skill from becoming extinct and also for tapping its potential to create livelihood besides earning foreign exchange through it,” suggested the official.