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Natural history museums with live animals

Discussion in 'Zoo Cafe' started by Onychorhynchus coronatus, 18 Oct 2020.

  1. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    I love visiting natural history museums around the world. I've noticed that many of these institutions house live displays of smaller animals whether for temporary exhibitions or as part of a permanent collection.

    Personally, I always feel that seeing live specimens / species alongside the dead taxidermy specimens , wet specimens and skeletons that form the bulk of these collections really enhances the overall educational experience.

    What natural history museums that you have visited keep live displays and what species are kept ?

    Is it a good thing in your opinion that museums keep live specimens or should this be limited to zoos ?
     
    Last edited: 18 Oct 2020
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  2. DesertRhino150

    DesertRhino150 Well-Known Member

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    I know that the London Natural History Museum had a walk-through butterfly exhibition near the front entrance (although I never went in, as I think it had a separate entrance fee) but I think it has now been removed. They also had live Mexican blind cave tetras as part of an exhibition about nocturnal animals.

    The Oxford Natural History Museum, on my first visit, had four large glass terraria on its upper level. One contained a mix of Madagascar hissing, flat horn hissing and death's-head cockroaches, the next had Congo green and peacock mantises (each contained in its own separate tub), the third had a salmon pink tarantula and the fourth question-mark cockroaches. This link also mentions burrowing cockroaches, emperor scorpions, giant spiny stick insects and honeybees as part of the live collection:
    http://www.oum.ox.ac.uk/learning/pdfs/livedisp.pdf

    The third natural history museum I have visited that I remember having multiple species on display was the tiny Colchester Natural History Museum. At one stage when I visited, it had a row of three terraria housing Carolina green anole lizards, golden apple snails and a neotenous smooth newt. I have found a passage in the book 'The Story of Colchester Zoo' that mentions that during the early 1960s the museum had a live collection that included eels, frogs, toads, newts, adders, grass snakes, slow-worms, woodpeckers, grey squirrels, ferrets, mice, a mole rat and a badger.

    The only other museum I have visited with on-show live specimens that I can remember is the Chelmsford City Museum, which has a glass-sided observation beehive.

    I think it is fine for natural history museums to have a live collection, as they can add extra interest and certainly fall under the remit of a natural history museum. Provided the animals are looked after well, I wouldn't see a great deal of difference between a natural history museum and a small zoo collection.
     
  3. Tetzoo Quizzer

    Tetzoo Quizzer Well-Known Member

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    Liverpool World Museum has an aquarium and bug house, Manchester Museum has a Vivarium specialising in Costa Rican amphibians. Although I have never been, I believe the Horniman Museum in London has some aquarium displays of seriously endangered species.
     
  4. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Regarding the NHM butterfly house, I did see it once but I also never entered due to the separate entrance fee. However, I think that it is definitely a brilliant idea and very educational for families and children etc.

    I saw the nocturnal exhibition "Life in the dark" that you mentioned at the NHM. It was an excellent one and very interactive and well produced. The addition of the Mexican blind cave fish made all the difference IMO as they really illustrated the evolutionary adaptions of animals to total darkness.

    I also saw the NHM exhibition "Venom" on venomous animals which had a live Brazilian birdeating spider, a truly huge specimen, which also similarly was a brilliant way to illustrate the topic of the exhibition. My only criticism of this exhibition would be the lack of a taxidermy specimen of a solenodon (they had one of other venomous mammals like the loris, water shrew and a vampire bat afterall) as this would have been the cherry on the cake for me. :D

    Cockroaches and other insects like mantids that you mention being kept by the Oxford natural history museum are quite interesting to keep in terms of educating the public about the importance of insect biodiversity or helping to instill an interest in minibeasts.

    I also think arachnids like tarantulas and scorpions strike me as excellent animals for natural history museums due to their educational potential, being illustrations of many interesting phenomena in nature and helping to reduce stigmas and phobias in the general public of these animals.

    I think it is generally fine too in an ethical sense for natural history museums to have live specimens and particularly when many of the species kept are invertebrates or vertebrates such as fish, amphibians, reptiles or small mammals. These are not particularly demanding in terms of space and their welfare needs can be met relatively easy in captivity so I don't really see a problem with it at all.
     
    Last edited: 18 Oct 2020
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  5. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Yes the Horniman museum is an excellent example of live displays in museums, a truly brilliant little museum. Next time you are in London, you should really pay a visit as it is a very interesting historic collection, has interesting zoological displays, taxidermy specimens and anthropological artifacts.

    The aquarium is brilliant there but apart from the Victorian era aquariums that are still in use (for sea anenome) it probably wouldn't impress many serious aquarium afficionados because the species they keep there are quite limited.

    From memory they have : European pond frogs, common toads, newts (palmate ?), several poison dart frogs (blue poison frog, green and black poison dart frog, yellow banded poison dart frog), Amazonian milk frogs, archer fish, four eyed fish, sticklebacks, roach, perch, sea horses (can't remember species), blue spotted ribbon tail sting ray, clown fish, butterfly fish, frogfish.

    They also have some harvest mice in the educational area alongside the taxidermy displays and a petting zoo outside with pygmy goats, alpaca, rabbits, hens, guinea pigs and things like that for kids.
     
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  6. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    Haus der Natur (Salzburg) has a pretty good live reptile and fish section. So have the vivaria of the NHM of Görlitz, Hannover and Karlsruhe. The Maritime Museum of Stralsund had a good aquarium section while the one at its Polish counterpart in Świnoujście just sports two tanks.
    NHM Vienna used to have a collection of aviaries, aquaria and terraria. They've made room for the gift shop. :(
     
  7. birdsandbats

    birdsandbats Well-Known Member

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    Milwaukee Public Museum has a very large invertebrate collection, including a butterfly house and a bunch of other things. They used to have extensive arachnid and amphibian collections but those are gone now. I have no idea how much of the current collection will move into the new location.
     
  8. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    I'll check those museums that you've mentioned out @Batto, I know that there are some excellent natural history museums in Germany (really want to visit these someday).

    Do these museums keep any amphibians, reptiles or fish of conservation concern or anything that is particularly noteworthy in your opinion?
     
  9. Dassie rat

    Dassie rat Well-Known Member

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    The Nantes Natural History Museum has a good collection of animals. When I visited, there were a few live animals, including reptiles.
     
  10. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Haven't been here yet, but from pictures online it looks excellent, they even seem to have a coelacanth wet specimen !

    What live animals / reptile species did they keep there ?

    Another French natural history museum worth mentioning is the natural history museum of Lille which also keeps a modest collection of live animals.

    From memory the Lille museum had some leucistic axolotls (probably the most interesting museum suited live animal in my opinion), some Mexican and Brazilian tarantula species, several stick insects, leaf insects and mantids and a king snake.
     
  11. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for mentioning this @Tetzoo Quizzer !

    The Manchester museums collection of endangered amphibians is a really good example of a museum being of great ex-situ conservation and conservation research utility / importance.

    I know that this facility is used and visited by many researchers every year who are studying amphibian declines across the world and chytridiomycosis. I've known a couple of researchers who have been over there and say it is brilliant.
     
  12. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    The Maritime Museum of Stralsund is home to the largest sea turtle tank in Germany. The HdN is an unique combination of various scientific aspects and the reptile collection includes several venomous ones (which is becoming a rare thing among European zoos). As for the others, you will have to look them up on ZTL as I'm no longer up to date in regard to their current species list.
     
  13. Batto

    Batto Well-Known Member

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    I just remembered: the Cincinnati NHM kept live bats when I was there prior to the renovation.
     
  14. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Well-Known Member

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    Live animals seem to be an expanding part of the mission of natural history museums to teach natural history, and I think that is a good thing. In some communities the natural history museum takes on the mission of teaching the public about the little things that run the world instead of the local zoo. That is true with the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum and its insect zoo and butterfly pavilion and the Smithsonian natural history museum in Washington, DC.

    The Los Angeles natural history museum also has a great exhibit called Nature Lab that focuses on the natural history of the city and county. There are many live animals - Virginia opossum, brown rats, rattlesnake, gopher snake, many species of spiders, newts.

    The California Academy of Sciences is a natural history museum combined with an aquarium. The Africa Hall has multiple dioramas of mounted animals and several live animal exhibits including the African penguin and pajama shark exhibit.

    The Melbourne Museum in Australia has a terrific live invertebrate collection and an aviary replicating a local forest with native birds and fish, including bower birds. I saw a satin bowerbird building its bower. It is one of the best live animal exhibits that I have seen anywhere. The museum also has (had?) Spinflex hopping mice and some of the only thorny devils in captivity.
     
  15. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    That is a really interesting example.

    I just had a look online and it would appear that this museum is still keeping a colony of big brown bats (excellent to raise conservation awareness of these mammals and the issue of white nose syndrome) but that it is temporarily closed.
     
  16. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    I totally agree with this statement about natural history museums David. They are brilliant places for environmental education in action with teaching the general public about larger ecological concepts such as ecosystem conservation.

    On the subject of zoos I would go one step further with reference to zoos and small taxa and state a personal conviction of mine. For many reasons I believe it is time for zoos to shift focus away from the larger "charismatic" species and towards the smaller taxa that are conservation dependent whether these be invertebrates, arachnids, amphibians, reptiles, birds or small mammals.

    Anyway, I know that you may not necessarily agree with me regarding this opinion of zoos and the direction they should be taking and it is only really tangentially relevant to this thread but as the topic came up I just thought I would mention this.

    This museum sounds like an excellent example of educating the public about broader ecosystems concepts and bower birds and thorny devils ! It sounds like a superb museum.

    Great to see this focus and emphasis on native / local species being displayed !
     
    Last edited: 18 Oct 2020
  17. Yoshistar888

    Yoshistar888 Well-Known Member

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    For Melbourne Museum I have a thread about it's animal collection

    Melbourne Museums Animal Collection [Melbourne Museum]

    I should also mention the Peabody Museum of Natural History in Newhaven, Conneticut has some live animals on the second floor, it has enclosures for leaf cutter ants, madagascan hissing cockroaches, stick insects, a Central Bearded Dragon, five species of Poison dart frog in a single exhibit, a tank for native fish and baby horseshoe crabs and finally a milk snake enclosure.
     
  18. birdsandbats

    birdsandbats Well-Known Member

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    The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago is basically a zoo.
     
  19. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    I think leaf cutter ants make a perfect natural history museum exhibit illustrating the ecosystem role of insects, a superorganism that can fit into a very limited amount of space with no problem at all.

    The Natural History Museum in London also had a leaf cutter ant colony and the Cardiff Museum in Wales also had one.

    Five species of poison dart frog in a single tank ? Wow! the tank must be quite big.

    I've never seen a horseshoe crab let alone seen one in a natural history museum but I bet they make an excellent exhibit considering that they are a living fossil and so ancient.
     
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  20. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Well-Known Member

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    The Cleveland, Ohio natural history museum has a native species zoo attached to it that opened recently. Our own Zoochatter Zooplantman was involved in its design.