African Trophy Taxidermy
African Trophy Taxidermy
Your African trophy taxidermy mounts will be in your trophy room or on the walls of your home for many years to come and will invoke all the memories of a great African hunting experience.
Selecting A Taxidermist
You have invested not an inconsiderable amount of effort and money obtaining those trophies. So it should be just as important to get the taxidermy right and pay the same attention to selecting the right taxidermy company as you did with selecting a hunting company.
Using a taxidermist in Africa or in your home country
- If you are unsure what to do, visit at a few taxidermy studios, look at taxidermy websites and African hunting forums where hunters often post photos of African trophy taxidermy - compare the look of the mounts, prices and terms of business.
- Bear in mind when looking at taxidermy websites, photographs or exhibitions at conventions, that the pieces on show are their best work probably done by the master taxidermist. Your trophies may be delegated to a lesser mortal in the taxidermy company to mount and may not achieve such a high standard of artistry.
- When making this decision, think whether it is important to you that the trophy looks right anatomically and indeed, if you would really know the difference between a poor mount and a great mount.
- Is cost a major concern?
- Many hunters feel that is cheaper to import their raw trophies home and get the work done there.
- The cost difference between getting the taxidermy work done in Africa is less that in most other taxidermy studios worldwide. The difference may come in the shipping costs as obviously a crate of finished trophies will be larger than that of raw trophies.
- Most quality African taxidermists are found in South Africa, so if you are hunting in another country there will be the additional costs of importing the trophies into South Africa.
- Hunters may also feel that they will have better communication with a taxidermist at home and are nervous of doing business with a company in Africa.
- Contact several reputable studios and, as with any business, make a judgement on their knowledge and professionalism.
- Though there are good and bad taxidermists everywhere, the best experience of mounting African trophies is really to be found in South Africa. One would hardly send trophies taken in Alaska to a taxidermist in Australia and expect a tip-top result. It is not just the taxidermy technique that makes a great trophy mount, it is the artistry, experience, knowledge and 'feel' for an animal.
What else to look for when selecting a taxidermist
- You may know ahead of time that you just want to have shoulder or skull mounts, so feel that there is not a lot that could go wrong with a home-grown taxidermist. You may be right but look at some examples of work on African animals and see how the taxidermists handles the mouth and eyes. Taxidermists whose usual work is their country's domestic species, may have trouble getting African animals right. Some even adapt their standard forms to accommodate African animals - it's not uncommon seeing a leopard looking strangely like a mountain lion or a waterbuck with a muledeer nose.
- If you are going to get some more exotic mounts done like full mounts or small diorama scenes like a lion over a gazelle kill, you really need to be even more careful with your choice of taxidermy. If you really care about the look of your trophy, you will need a taxidermist with museum quality taxidermy experience with great knowledge of the African species - not a job for a small local home taxidermist.
- Look for the taxidermist's experience with importation and exportation of African trophy taxidermy. Has he done this before? Is he well-versed in all documentation and all regulations on moving animal products? This is a critical aspect of the service - any documentation errors and your trophies will be, at best, delayed, or even refused entry and possibly destroyed.
- If you are still doubtful about the quality of work a taxidermist, a rule of thumb is to look at their cat mounts. If a taxidermist can produce outstanding African cats mounts, you can bet your bottom dollar, the rest of his work will be excellent, as cats are always a challenge to get right.
- Really study the animal mount and compare it to photographs and films of the species in the wild. Look at the gait - notice where the legs are when it is walking. A common basic error with poor quality taxidermy full mounts, is that the animal is posed incorrectly.
- As mentioned before, the animal's mouth is commonly done badly by some inexperienced taxidermists and it is the feature that can really ruin the look of a trophy, along with popping out eyes.
- Do not be too concerned with the length of time it takes to get your trophies finished by a taxidermist. Remember that African trophy taxidermy is an art and good art takes time to produce. Also a reputable taxidermist of quality will be constantly busy and the work is done on a first come, first served basis. If you factor in the time for the raw trophies to move from the skinning shed, to the main town for crating, treating, documentation, exporting and importing (either to South Africa or home), it could be close to 18 months before you see them.
After Selecting A Taxidermist
- If you've chosen a taxidermist in your home country, it will be useful if you could arrange for him to supply you with trophy shipping tags to take with you. You will need enough to label every single trophy part you intend keeping. For example, one Cape buffalo may need labels for the skull and horns, cape skin, back skin, hooves x 4 and tail (if not attached to back skin). These labels should be indestructable with a secure method of attachment like a ladder strap. They should be indelibly printed with your taxidermist's full address and contact details. They should either be pre-printed with your details or with a sections to complete with the hunters name, outfitter's details, animal type (ie. Cape buffalo) and trophy part (ie. cape skin).
- If you are using a taxidermist in Africa, check with your outfitter if he is able to get trophy shipping tags from the taxidermist. It's not the end of the world if the tags are not supplied - most PH's have a supply of blank tags to complete all with the necessaruy details. Just make sure you know the name, address and contact details of your taxidermist.
- Try to decide what mounts you would like on the species you are likely to hunt. This need not be cast in stone at this stage but may help with your taxidermy budgeting.
- If you are going to be hunting a CITES Appendix I animal you will need to apply for a CITES Import Permit ahead of the hunt.
Your Trophies During The Hunt
- Read about the skinning and care of your trophies, if you are interested in this aspect of your hunt.
- The trophy parts will be tagged as soon as possible to prevent them being mixed up with any other similar trophies and the PH will keep a taxidermy register up to date with all your species and the taxidermy instructions.
- At the end of the hunt you can review the taxidermy instructions and sign the register, keeping a copy for yourself.
- A copy of the taxidermy register will also go to the taxidermist who will review and finalise everything with you before work starts on the trophies.
Your Trophies After The Hunt
- Hunting outfitters usually move an entire seasons trophies out together from isolated destinations. Trophies usually need to be moved out by lorry or even chartered aircraft and it is more cost effective to do all at once rather than sending out part shipments.
- This can mean that even though trophies are hunted within the first few months of the year that they will only be ready for export at the end of the year, or even early the following year.
- The export documentation is then done for an entire seasons safaris.
- There can be delays when documentation is issued incorrectly by the exporting countries Wildlife and CITES Authorities.
- Weather conditions also affect the movement of trophies from remote areas - as air strips and roads in the middle of the bush can be adversely affected by the rainy season (after the hunting season).
- On your return home send your taxidermist a list of your trophies so he knows what to expect and compare it with the export documentation received. If there are any discrepancies, they can be dealt with before the consignment leaves the hunt country.
- Once the taxidermist has the contact details of the outfitter or exporter, he can try to expedite the shipment.
- Most taxidermists will require a deposit prior to the importation of the trophies commensurate with the volume of trophies.
- The receipt of this deposit will also usually book your trophies into the taxidermist's production schedule, thus expediting the completion of the work.
- It is recommended that you insure your trophies from the country of export to the country of import.
Our thanks go to Cecil and his team at Lifeform Taxidermy for their expert help with the taxidermy section and for permission to use their photographs.
Leopard Full Mount