What is taxidermy?
Taxidermy is processing the dead body of an animal so that it remains preserved. One who does this is called a taxidermist. It often involves birds and mammals, but reptiles, fish and amphibians can also be mounted.
How does it work?
During taxidermy, all perishable parts of an animal are replaced by other materials. We usually work with synthetic foam and wood wool. The taxidermist usually does this by making a cut on the abdomen or back. The animal is then poached and the skin is tanned. That tanned skin is later stretched over the artificial body.
The animal's body is carefully recreated. We wrap an artificial body with wood wool or we use a preformed fit. These shapes always have to be cut to size, because every body is different. This involves a lot of measuring and fitting work. Bones and skulls are sometimes used in the preparation, these must of course be thoroughly cleaned. Glass or plastic eyes are placed in the eye sockets. These are different for each animal species.
Depending on the animal species, the tanning process of the skin takes several weeks. The thoroughly cleaned skin is coated with a substance that prevents later insect damage. The skin then passes over the counterfeit animal and all cuts are sewn with a needle and thread. After this, fascinating, but time-consuming modeling begins. The skin must be in the right place, wings or limbs must be in the correct position, the feather and spring fields must be properly laid and the tail must be in the correct position. When the mounting is ready, it must dry for a while longer. And after drying, certain parts are colored with the airbrush.
Mounting an animal is a time-consuming affair, it requires craftsman's skill, but also knowledge of the animal, its behavior and its natural environment.
What to do if you find a dead animal? Or what if you want to have an animal mounted?
You can bring the animal to us or you can temporarily put the animal in the freezer. This way it stays fresh and that benefits the preparation.
There are many factors that determine whether an animal can be mounted and whether this may involve additional work. In a traffic victim, there are often bone fractures, damage to the skin and blood stains. In the autumn, animals are often fat, which makes mounting more cumbersome. In animals in the moult feathers and hair are easily released, sometimes preparation is not possible. Even if an animal is not fresh enough, preparation can be impossible.
In Belgium, almost all birds and mammals are protected. If you find a wild animal next to the road, you must request permission from the Ministry to have it set up. Then it is often only possible if there is an educational purpose. This is not necessary for farmed animals, pets, animals with correct papers, ...
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