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Topic: Land mammals

Is part of topic Natural Environment at Te Papa

The terrestrial mammal collection contains approximately 6,000 collection items, ranging from mounted deer, to skins, skulls and individual bones. Many of these specimens were acquired by Te Papa's predecessor, the Colonial Museum, in the late 1800s and early 1900s in exchange for moa bones and Mäori artifacts. Prior to the development of mass communication through the media and the internet, museums were the only way people in New Zealand could get to see exotic animals from other parts of the world.

Most items stored in the Tory Street store are tanned skins or clean skeletal material. Although an easy means of storage, these methods lose much information that can be obtained from the body of the animal, and, whenever possible, animals are preferably stored in jars or tanks of alcohol, however, the collection is largely historical and there is no active collecting programme.

Terrestrial mammal skins are prepared by taxidermy - a process whereby the skin is removed from the animal, tanned and replaced over a carefully constructed artificial mold of the body. Few specimens are prepared this way today, except for exhibition purposes.  Most specimens added to the collection are skeletal and the flesh is removed by maceration or the use of flesh eating dermestid beetles.

The museum holds extensive collections of introduced terrestrial mammals such as mustelids, rodents, wallabies and goats that were obtained from ecological studies of these pests. The collections form an important database for the study of genetic diversity and are of particular interest as studies can be made of variation from the ancestral stock over a known time period from the recorded date of each introduction to New Zealand.

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