Mammals are the group of warm-blooded animals to which humans belong and so contain some of our closest relatives. The egg-laying platypus and echidnas are also mammals, but with a very different evolutionary history. Mammals include the largest animal that has ever lived, the blue whale, and the tallest animal alive today, the giraffe.
RAMM’s large and impressive mounted specimens include the giant eland and the tiger, presented by King George V. Since RAMM’s early days marine mammals have proven popular exhibits such as the fin whales cast ashore at Teignmouth (1875) and Beer (1876). Both specimens were bought as skeletons for the Museum, though not in their entirety. Once the museum had an entire gallery of whales, dolphins and porpoises.
Gerald the giraffe
Gerald the giraffe is one of RAMM’s most iconic specimens. This adult male giraffe has been an extremely popular exhibit at the Museum since 1920. He is a bull giraffe (Giraffa tippelskirchi) and would have been an outstanding animal when alive.
In 1901 he encountered big game hunter Charles Victor Alexander Peel at Moshi, Kenya, close to the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro in what were German Territories. This encounter was to elevate him to iconic status far from his birthplace.
Although large mammals are the attraction for visitors, it is the smaller mammals and specimen fragments that add scientific value to the collection. Unlike birds, RAMM’s small mammals are not usually in lifelike poses. They are in the collection for scientific not aesthetic reasons. Small mammals play an important part in our immediate environment and everyday lives and their abundance is a useful ecological parameter.
Often the specimens are just skins, or skins with stuffing such as wood wool to give a rounded shape. Other skins have a card ‘finger’ inside to give them some support.