Mounted animal specimens, star attractions in Akurdi Museum
PUNE: Along with the only specimen of a giant centipede in India, the Zoological Survey of India's (ZSI) museum in Akurdi also houses mounted animals, birds, mammals, and specimens of crustaceans and insects.
Seeing the carefully preserved fauna at the museum, one is struck by the wonders of taxidermy. Speaking to TOI, ZSI scientist K A Subramanian said that taxidermy is the act of mounting and preserving all vertebrate species of animals including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians where the skin and bones are kept intact.
scientist S Jadhav said that apart from the mounted animals, there are specimens here that are treated chemically to preserve the texture, size and shape of a specie. "For more than 30 years, the museum has been housing these exhibits. Many students from schools and colleges visit the museum," he said.
While the museum awaits a seven-feet mounted African leopard confiscated recently by the airport authorities in Mumbai, the present display includes barking deer from Mahabaleshwar, a young spotted deer, an Australian parrot (exotic species) and a pied hornbill (endangered species) with the long beak and a seven-feet anteater (all mounted). Meanwhile, the aforementioned giant centipede is originally a Venezuelan species but was found on the Raigad coast in India.
The other zoological collection comprises butterflies, insects, moths and caecilians (an order of amphibians) that superficially resemble earthworms or snakes. It is interesting to see the display of aquatic bug species diplonychus rusticus', where the male is carrying the eggs on its back to protect it.
B E Yadav, another ZSI scientist, said that some of the animals showcased here were either hunted or captured before 1970s, prior to the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 that bans the killing of all wild animals. While some of the display was donated to the ZSI, the rest was collected for scientific studies.
The museum also exhibits photographs of threatened primates of India like the slender loris, golden langur, hoolock gibbon, crab eating macaque, stump tailed macaque, phayre's leaf monkey, lion-tailed macaque, capped langur and pig-tailed macaque.
One of the striking fish species kept as a specimen here is the hammerhead shark'. Its head is flattened and laterally extended into a hammer' shape. The positioning of the eyes give the shark a good binocular and 360-degree vision, enabling them to see above and below at all times.
Subramanian said there are plans afoot to add more exhibits and make them theme-based. "The exhibits will be made more interactive, with charts and LCD displays."
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