What does a taxidermist do?
Taxidermists preserve animal’s bodies for the purpose of display or study. They do this by constructing a model of the animal’s body, preserving its skin and stretching the skin over the model.In order to produce a natural-looking reconstruction they:
- Study the natural pose of the animal
- Use a variety of materials to construct the framework, including wood, plastic and fibreglass, as well as steel rods, polyurethane foam and papier-mâché
- Use special techniques to skin the animal, and then clean and preserve the skin (a process known as tanning)
- Fit and sew the skin over the framework, including any fur or feathers
- Add teeth, claws or eyes where necessary
- Arrange the specimen in a mount
Fish and reptiles require different techniques, such as making a silicon rubber mould lined with fibreglass. The scales are then painted on, whilst the fins are made separately and attached separately.
Part of the work can also involve making a natural backdrop for the animal, perhaps for a museum, and for this taxidermists need a good understanding of animal habitats.
Taxidermists are sometimes employed by museums, in which case they may deal with enquiries from the public. This might also include education work, such as helping children and adults to benefit from the exhibits. Taxidermists also work for private organisations or run their own businesses.
The job also involves some administrative tasks – details of the scientific name of the species, its habitat and the details of acquisition must be properly recorded. It is also important for the taxidermist to provide evidence of how legally protected animals died.
The law requires that all taxidermists are properly registered, and they are also inspected to ensure that they comply with government regulations about the collection, preservation and sale of specimens.