|RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE | Quex House brings a little
bit of Africa to Kent|
Elephants, giraffes, monkeys, anteaters,
gorillas and zebras; it may sound like a description of the African
plains, but in fact these exotic creatures are currently residing
Quex House near Margate
is home to more than 500 stuffed African animals preserved for posterity
and lovingly displayed in reconstructions of their homeland.
The founder of this collection was Major Percy Horace
Gordon Powell-Cotton, who explored Africa and Asia between 1887 and 1939.
Load you rifle
was the epitome of a Victorian explorer|
The epitome of a Victorian explorer, Major Powell-Cotton
would don his pith helmet, load his rifle and set off into the jungle
to bag himself a tiger or a rhino.
His successful hunts would hang as trophies in the billiard
room. Once the collection became too vast for the house, the Major built
The Powell-Cotton Museum was founded in 1895. There are
five galleries displaying animal collections from his expeditions to remote
corners of Africa and Asia.
The Major’s travels through Africa unearthed a wealth
of artefacts, including thousands of photographs dating back to the early
1880s and home movie footage from as early as 1927.
camouflages himself to avoid detection by the angry looking rhino|
There may only be 500 animals on display, but behind the
scenes lies an even bigger collection of animal samples. Four and a half
thousand skeletal specimens and six thousand skins are stored at Quex
As the collection expanded, The Major began to catalogue
his specimens. Each animal was measured, labelled and even the lines of
latitude and longitude where the animal was found, were recorded. It became
less or a sport and more of a science.
In the 21st Century, the Major’s activities may be deemed
far from tasteful or politically correct. The Major however, unknowingly
left behind a legacy that at the expense of the animals of yesteryear,
is a vital conservation tool for today’s endangered species.
Contained in the specimens of Quex House is a vast genetic
record, DNA. In 1997 the museum put this genetic information to use. Using
Giant Sable Skulls and hides, collected in Angola in 1921, the team were
able to take samples of DNA.
|Wildlife of yesteryear
are helping their ancestors by providing DNA|
The samples proved that South African researchers had
found a number of pure Giant Sables. The DNA was the proof the team needed
to begin a breeding program designed to save these creatures from extinction.
"You are able to get a genetic blue print of the Giant
Sable. It’s a remarkable depository of DNA in that it allows taxonomists
to study animal information over time."
John Frederick Walker - US journalist and author of "A Certain Curve of
DNA from Quex House was to prove vital once again, when
the museum got involved in the Quagga project, five years ago.
The Quagga is an extinct form of Zebra. The Cape Mountain
Zebra was a close sister Quagga and through the DNA samples from Quex
House, scientists are now able to breed Cape Mountain Zebra that are similar
to Quagga in all aspects except their DNA.
At first glance, The Major’s collection of stuffed creatures
may appear distasteful and would certainly be frowned upon were he still
hunting today. The legacy he left however, has provided a key role in
conservation work today.
So the creatures residing in Quex House can rest assured
that their untimely death at the hand of the Major is now helping to save
future generations from extinction.