We are not taxidermists, nor do we have taxidermists on our staff. The information contained in this article is intended to provide the prospective client with sufficient information to enable them to incorporate taxonomic preservation concepts into their safari planning and to provide them a basis for interacting with their taxidermist of choice in an intelligent and informed manner.
Clients may avoid taxidermy expense altogether by electing to leave their trophies in RSA. Some clients are happy to return to their country of residence with nothing more than the excellent photographs of their harvested trophies that we provide them. This is strictly a personal choice. If this election is made the client may rest assured that no part of the animals left behind will be wasted.
If the client decides to preserve taxonomic specimens of their trophies, then the decision facing the client is in what manner to preserve them. Making this choice will be dictated by three factors:
- The client's personal preferences.
- The amount of space available to display the specimens.
- The client's budget for taxidermy work.
As to personal preferences, the client has possibly 11 categories to consider:
- The full-body mount (Figure 1)
- The half-body mount (Figure 2)
- The traditional shoulder-mount, both flat-backed and angle-backed (Figure 3)
- The drop-shoulder-mount (Figure 4)
- The neck-mount (not shown)
- The pedestal mount (Figure 5)
- The flat-skin (Figure 6)
- The flat-skin with full head attached (Figure 7)
- The back-skin (Figure 8)
- European mount (Figure 9)
- Specialty items (Figure 10)
The full-body mount involves a life-size taxonomic specimen of the trophy animal posed in accordance with the client's instructions. The half-body mount includes the front half of a full-body mount. The traditional shoulder-mount consists of the head and neck and a portion of both front shoulders to give the specimen a sense of dimension and depth. This would be the type mount most of us are familiar with. The drop-shoulder-mount is similar except it displays a larger portion of one shoulder to give the mount more definition.
The neck mount was an older mounting format typical of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century before good taxidermy forms were commonly available. Only the head and a small part of the neck forward of the shoulders is displayed. This type mount still has a place in today's choices because of the extremely long length of giraffe necks. Thus, it is reserved almost exclusively for that species where wall space is at a premium.
Think of a pedestal mount as a shoulder-mount set on a pedestal. The purpose of a pedestal mount is several folds. For one, it places the mount closer to eye-level, which many people find appealing. For trophy specimens that are quite tall (e.g. kudu, etc.) it avoids the situation where the horn tips are nearly piercing the ceiling. It provides a nice counter-balance to a broad wall filled to the brim with shoulder-mounts. It is the best mount for livening up a corner where no other item of furniture fits very well. The pedestal itself can be an additional decorative item (maps, skin panels, photographs, etc.), or storage cabinet for hunting accessories. Pedestal mounts are particularly adept at displaying several specimens of smaller antelope (e.g. a grand slam of springbok). Pedestal mounts offer the client the opportunity to face the animal in different directions based upon the client's whim of the moment. Finally, the back of the pedestal mount does not have to have the same flat surface of the typical shoulder-mount. Thus, a bit of artistic flair can be added to a pedestal mount that the flat-backed shoulder-mount does not have.
The flat-skin mount consists of the full skin of the entire animal opened along a line trans versing the belly-line from chin to end of the tail. Thus, the flat-skin mount is for laying on the floor, pinned against a wall, or perhaps draped across the back of a couch. Three types of finishing details are typically available: raw tanned skin, felt-backed skin, or felt-backed with leather edge trim. This is a favored treatment for zebras due to the unique patterning of zebra skins across the length of the back; no two are alike.
The flat-skin mount with full head attached consists of the flat-skin as described above, but the head is preserved in 3-dimensional format. This display is most typically done with lions (and sometimes zebras) but could include other species as well.
The back-skin is what is left of a full skin after the animal has been caped for a shoulder-mount or pedestal mount. It consists of the skin over a very small portion of the back and both hindquarters. These can be used as flat displays over end tables and other similar uses. They can also be made into decorative pillows and used for any number of leather-craft projects according to the depth of the owner's imagination (hatbands, rifle slings, belts, etc. are some common uses).
The European form of mounting is probably the oldest form of preserving taxonomic specimens. In this form, the skull (with horns attached ---- if they exist) is cleaned, bleached and preserved in its bare form without any treatment to skin or eyes. This form of preservation is simple and straightforward and is typically the cheapest form of preservation and the most space-saving. The skull is typically mounted to a suitable carved plaque which itself is attached to a wall in the same fashion as a shoulder-mount.
Specialty items consist of any use of taxonomic parts not included in the previous categories. For instance, feet can be made into bookends, lamp stands, and other ornamental fixtures. Off-cuts of skin can be made into pillows, belts, hatbands, rifle slings, book covers, etc. whatever the imagination can conceive.
In determining the amount of space to be allocated to the display of taxonomic specimens, take careful inventory of both the wall space and floor space suited for this purpose. Typically, most mounts will be wall mounts, but pedestal mounts and flat skins will most likely require floor space. Confer with your taxidermist for support and guidance. Look for underutilized locations throughout the living space and make your decision on how to display your specimens based upon this assessment. As to the positioning of wall mounts two perspectives are prevalent. One is to have the mounts mimic the way you remember seeing the animal in the bush. The other is to coordinate the collection of mounts so that collectively they present some semblance of harmony and balance.
If you see that you are going to run out of space in your primary residence, other locations for consideration are your office or vacation home. Also, if you find yourself completely out of space often your local gun shop or club will consider the positioning of taxidermist work in their space for to enhance their decorative motifs. Finally, if you already have examples of domestic taxonomic work on display in your home, you may wish to consider separating your domestic specimens from your African specimens as having them displayed separately will lend a certain visual cohesiveness to each display if they are not intermixed.
The amount of taxidermy expense is a function of the following (non-exclusive) factors: (1) number of animals to be treated (2) size of each individual animal (3) species (4) treatment to be applied (e.g. full-body mount, shoulder mount, flat skin, rug w/head attached, back skin, custom accessories, etc.) (5) any need for reconstructive work, etc. Thus, you can see why Chacma Safaris does not provide estimates of taxidermy expense; it is simply outside our professional purview.
If the client desires to have taxidermy work completed on trophies, they have taken the work can either be done in RSA or in the client’s home country. Our dip & ship affiliate works closely with a local taxidermist that will provide cost estimates upon request. Generally, we find taxidermy work can be done with less expense in RSA than other locations, however the savings is generally offset by the additional shipping expense required for the larger crates necessary to accommodate finished mounts. Also, for work done in RSA, once the work is completed the client is sent an Invoice which must be paid in a timely manner in order to receive the finished work. Thus, some clients opt to have the treated (dipped) taxonomic specimens crated and shipped to their selected taxidermist in their home country where they can spread out the cost of the work over many months, if not years. Thus, the client is advised to speak to several taxidermists of their choosing in their home country prior to departing on safari. During this visit discuss your plans and issues with them and select the taxidermist that you feel best meets your expectations. Taxidermy work (like many things) is something where you pretty much get what you pay for. If you want cheap prices and fast completion times, you probably should expect lower quality than if you want museum quality work and are willing to wait on delivery times and do not blanche at the prices. Again, this is all a matter of personal taste and expectations. Speak to one of our professional staff members if you need additional information.