Still life: The art of stuffing and mounting animals

A mounted muscovy duck and a Giriraj chicken that Gaikwad has worked on. (Photo: Amit Chakravarty)

Walking into The Bombay Veterinary College’s anatomy department museum is like stepping into a place suspended in time. There is no death here, or decay. Instead, a foot-long turtle, a slightly faded grey snake and a plate-sized stingray share space with other stuffed animals. India’s celebrated taxidermist Dr Santosh Gaikwad is proudest of his mounted Giriraj chicken and a Muscovy duck, whose heads he absent-mindedly strokes while talking.

“The point of taxidermy for me,” Gaikwad says, “is to be able to preserve the past for future generations. Our wildlife will soon vanish and younger generations will never know what an animal looked like.”

Gaikwad once stuffed the last Siberian tiger of India called Kunal. It was 22 years old when it died on November 17, 2011. The Govind Ballabh Pant High Altitude Zoo in Nainital

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