A passion for Animals? Become a Taxidermist

For centuries, men and women with a passion for preserving animals - often dangerous ones, frozen in time with that charismatic fierce expression which invites a closer look - have worked silently behind the scenes, in a highly specialist trade that is often overlooked in this modern technological era of ipods and computers. While taxidermy might not be the first thing you think about in terms of interesting jobs, nobody can deny that this unique career path is an intriguing one that offers both plentiful opportunity and a chance to be creative and work closely with animals: birds, small and large mammals, many of which will likely become rare or extinct within the next hundred years.

Taxidermist unusual job

Due to its highly unusual nature and somewhat gruesome reputation, taxidermy has, over the years, been attacked for its process, with many questioning its ethics: taking a dead animal and preserving it forever as a piece of art for the cultural consumption of human beings. Although the politics surrounding these ethics has undoubtedly led to a decline in public interest in the craft, many taxidermists - especially where hunting is still prevalent, or a scientific interest in observing animals in their natural state remains - are still inundated with a variety of work, with much of it coming from museums, private collectors and hunters with a penchant for celebrating their prey.

Many taxidermists are self-employed and work solely on their own (or as part of a compact team) in a small laboratory or studio, while fewer work for companies contracted to carry out such jobs on a regular basis. Despite the grisly public perception of the trade, on a day-to-day basis the work-load involves a great deal more than simply stuffing animals and placing them in glass cabinets, and is less shocking than you might at first expect: for example, substantial damage may need to be repaired, such as bullet holes or wounds, as well as hides inspected and animals fitted with life-like glass eyes. On some occasions extensive artistic colouring - usually in the form of air-brushing or specialist painting of the skin - may also be required to recreate the healthy natural look, therefore re-igniting the exuberant youth of the animal in its prime.

There is, of course, so much more to the job than this: even before the actual practical work is undertaken, a fair amount of consulting may be required, in order to satisfy each and every customer's demands; often this means a taxidermist will visit the client in their home - or alternatively, where the finished animal is to be situated - and advise on things like mount type and room positioning. As well as giving their expert opinion on these things, they may also be asked to use their experience to furnish the habitat that the animal will finally rest in: such as woodland, on a log, or inside a glass cabinet fitted with suitable foliage.

While it is true that many taxidermists continue the trade from an old-school perspective, working mainly on animals killed by hunters for pleasure, a new breed of taxidermist has become just as well-known in recent years, and these experts look set to attract a whole new client base to what was once considered to be a barbarian and archaic practice: the ethical taxidermist who works only on animals that have died of natural causes or perished as a result of a road accident.

Training to become a taxidermist usually consists of doing a degree, and, due to the ever-progressing nature of the preservation practice - including the specialist tools employed to perform the various tasks - some may wish to keep abreast of the latest techniques and styles by going back to school every few years.

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