Carl Akeley’s striped hyenas (Hyaena hyaena)

I popped my head into the conservator’s laboratory this afternoon to capture some of the work being done on our favorite striped hyenas this week! For being over a hundred years old they’re not in terrible shape; the conservators are focused on decreasing the chances of pest infestation in their new home, and ensuring the mounts retain stability for the next century or so. They performed x-rays to learn more about the hyena’s internal structure and discovered that Akeley left many of the limb bones intact, and at least 3 of the 4 hyenas – the ones bearing teeth – still have their original skulls. We’ll know more in the coming weeks.

The paints you see there are used selectively to smooth the animals’ outer appearances, and are only employed on the ‘audience’-facing side and as needed – as I understand it, superfluous work is a conservator’s worst enemy. 

Another thing I learned in talking with the scientists working on Akeley’s mounts was about his choice to keep the sinew and dried tissue of the prey animal intact – and the same goes for the gnawed hoof. The fat is from the original animal, unprepared and uncleaned. Even though the goal is realism, we know now it’s risky business to leave (tasty) tissue in a specimen, as it attracts pests and invaders. But, thanks to our Indiegogo supporters affording us the ability to hire such conservators for our hyenas, we’re able to help prevent that sort of thing from happening in the decades to come! <3

To be honest, it just took my breath away to walk in that lab and see the hyenas up close. This project comes more ‘real’ every day and I cannot wait for the unveiling in January!