Taxidermy & Ornithology
If you are a bird watcher, or you love learning about birds, the National Institute of Culture and History hopes that you will be interested in visiting their latest exhibit which was opened today.
It's called the Bird Taxidermy Exhibit, and it's a project on which NICH and the Museum collaborated with the Belize Audubon Society, and Dr. Steven Zitzer. He's a taxidermist, which basically means that he preserves the bodies of animals, and in his case, birds. He's been collecting different species of birds in Belize, which were knocked down by motorists. Rather than allowing these animals to decompose, he's preserved their bodies for artistic and educational purposes.
He's created pieces from over 20 bird species found in Belize, and this morning, NICH and the Audubon Society opened an exhibit at the Museum. They invited the press for the opening ceremony, and 7News spoke with the Director of the Museum about this unusual entry for the general public viewing pleasure:
"The exhibit is the birds of Belize; it's a collaboration between 3 parties, Dr. Zitcher who did the stuffing of the birds, the Belize Audubon Society who is celebrating their 50th anniversary and the Museum of Belize. If you look at the work dormy it means skin, so what it is, is just the preservation of bird skin with the feathers in tacked. Dr. Zitcher approached us with a collection of birds, it was just his hobby. He would stuff these birds and he works with the Belize raptor center and he approached the house of culture in San Ignacio 3 years with his birds and we put it up as a small display. When he approached us again and we sought out a partner in the Belize Audubon Society to collaborate for this exhibit. It doesn't feature the entire amount of birds we have in Belize because that would full up the entire museum but we have about 23 different species, all that Dr. Zitcher had to collect and mostly hit by vehicles on the roadside and so on and so he stuffed a number of toucans, parrots, barnolds and so and so. You will see it in the exhibit upstairs."
"There are 30 species in the exhibits that represents less than 10 percent, there's about 600 different kinds of birds in Belize. These represents the one that cross highways and are mostly hit by cars, so they are birds that get hit by cars mostly and it's a lot of bigger ones because there are the ones that people see on the side of the road. It's not really representative of that much over all diversity but it's what gets injured the most and I always have new stuff to work with, so I'm adding new things to the exhibit and I will always just work really with birds because stuffing animals is a whole different technique and I prefer not to do that."
"As you walk through this museum display, you'll see that they tell a story, they tell of story of where they live. What they eat, where you can find them and even their death which is untimely in all of them but the reality is they tell the story and they tell the story of Belize and the rich biodiversity that we have. Each bird in itself is an educator and we have selected this display to be collaborated with the museum as we know that it would be highly visited. We have school kids our largest population is in Belize City, we have visitors. The original date for this actually has changed a few times because we realise that cruise tourism, this actually a huge attraction to the country. Everyone who brings a guest I hope that they will bring them to the museum for this sampling of what Belize has."
The exhibit runs for the next 6 months.
Bird Taxidermy Exhibition opens at Museum of Belize
There’s a new exhibition at the Museum of Belize in Belize City. This one is not your usual painting, carvings and antique pieces; it is a show on birds in Belize. The birds, which have been preserved to look almost real life, are being showcased to share the birding offerings and highlight the importance of bird conservation in Belize. No birds were injured in the setting up of this exhibition. The thirty birds used were injured before by cars or other causes and died in the possession of registered agencies who kept them for rehabilitation purposes to introduce them back into the wild. When these birds died, an American taxidermist collected them and prepared them for educational display. Today, the exhibition was opened in memory of Lydia Waight, one of the founding members of the Belize Audubon Society. News Five’s Andrea Polanco was there and tells us more about the exhibit.
Andrea Polanco, Reporting
You don’t often see our national bird the keel-billed toucan, or a falcon or a heron flying around Belize City – but as oftoday you can get a close up look at these birds and twenty-seven others that are on display at the Museum of Belize. The only thing is that you won’t see them moving or flying around and that’s because the thirty dead birds have been preserved.It’s a collaborative exhibition between the Belize Audubon Society and the National Institute of Culture and History – where the birds are being showcased in a display called the Lydia Waight Gallery of Birds. Belize Audubon Society says it is about raising awareness of these species and the importance of bird conservation to Belize.
Amanda Burgos, Executive Director, Belize Audubon Society
“So, the exhibition is for education and awareness purposes, largely. Each bird, there’s thirty birds within the exhibit. Each bird tells its story – so each tells us where it lives, where it eats, its nest, the information really is done in a simplistic manner that all of us can read it and understand. It also tells us about the threats of these birds, so we are aware of what threats are really prevalent towards these species and we can take action towards these threats that we see.”
For the past two years, an American taxidermist who resides in Belize, Dr. Stephen Zitzer has been doing the ground work to put on a bird taxidermy exhibition. Since the idea took root, he collected thirty dead birdswith permission from the Forestry Department. The carcasses of these protected birds would’ve been burnt which is normally how they are discarded – but Dr. Zitzer decided to put them to good use. To prepare them, he removed their entrails and stuffed them – preserving them through a process called taxidermy. He says he wanted the birds to look like living creatures – and if you feel them staring back at you – don’t be spooked– those are just glass eyes installed to make the birds look real.
Dr. Stephen Zitzer, Taxidermist
“The most important thing is when a bird dies, is to dry it and put it in a freezer so that insects don’t get it and it starts decomposing. Once that is done, when I get it, it takes from a small bird three to four hours and to a large one up to ten to twelve hours. It is a process where I use preservative powder which is non-toxic. I turn the whole bird inside out. In the inside, I put newspaper, wire and the most expensive thing is the glass eyes. The most important thing is to make the eyes look good so it looks more alive. The other artistic part of it is that I find nice pieces of wood – I am a bird watcher so I know the poses of the birds that they look like to make them more natural. Because they are all injured, the challenge for me is to hide the bad parts.”
As a part of the education – these birds will remain on display for six months at the Museum of Belize where local schools and tourists alike can learn more about the rich history and growing birding conservation in Belize. Director Alexis Salazar of NICH, who has responsibility for the museum, says this taxidermy exhibit adds another unique offering.
Alexis Salazar, Director, Museum of Belize
“We have been doing quite a lot of education outreach before the actual opening; getting students to know more about birds in Belize. We are going to do another session with Dr. Zitzer at the Streets Art Festival and so we have a plan to go out and do education about birds and then also have the exhibit here where schools can come in and view the new exhibit. It complements our insects of Belize. So, I can boast now that we have a natural history wing now. If you go to other museums – there are some solely dedicated to natural history. Kids, they are just naturally interested in birds and coming and seeing it.”
Today was a most joyful day at the Museum of Belize!! The museum, in partnership with Belize Audubon Society (BAS), officially opened an exhibit entitled "The Lydia Waight Gallery of Birds". Special tribute was made to the late Mrs. Lydia Waight, one of the founding members of BAS. It was a most special and touching ceremony commemorating the 17th anniversary of the Museum of Belize, as well as the 50th anniversary of the Belize Audubon Society.
Cutting the ribbon to the Lydia Waight Gallery of Birds. Ms. Sapna Budhrani, Mrs. Ellen Del Margo, and Mrs. Amanda Burgos-Acosta.
Mrs. Amanda Burgos-Acosta, Executive Director of Belize Audubon Society
Mr. Alexis Salazar, Director of Museum of Belize and Houses of Culture.
Ms. Sapna Budhrani, President of National Institute of Culture and History.
The guests were amazed at how close they could come to view the birds. They were equally amazed at how alive this Great Curassow looked after the taxidermy process.
Students were visibly excited and intrigued at the taxidermy birds!
Seen here is Dr. Stephen Zitzer of San Ignacio, the taxidermy artist who expertly mounted the birds in this exhibit. Taxidermy is the art of stuffing and preserving animals for display or study.
Seen here are some of the members of the Waight family.
Ms. Sapna Budhrani, Mr. Joseph Waight, and Mrs. Amanda Burgos-Acosta.
Seen here are Mrs. Acosta and Ms. Budhrani with some of our distinguished guests: H.E. Mr. Georges De La Roche, Ambassador of Guatemala to Belize, along with H.E. Mr. Remus Li-Kuo Chen, Ambassador of The Republic of China (Taiwan) to Belize.
Ms. Varsha Clarke of the Belize Audubon Society, is seen here giving students a tour of the bird taxidermy exhibit.
As part of their 50th anniversary celebration theBelize Audubon Society in partnership with the Museum of Belize launched the Exhibit of The Lydia Waight Gallery of Birds today Friday, February 15th at the Museum of Belize.