BANGOR, Maine — Looking to go on an adventure this summer? The Maine Discovery Museum in Bangor has an experience that’s sure to entertain the whole family.
As part of the SAFARI exhibit, visitors will get to see more than 30 animals from five continents, including an African lion, the kudu (a woodland antelope with spiraled horns), and a Reeve’s Muntjac barking deer.
“It’s a unique opportunity to see rare and beautiful animals that most people will never see in the wild or even in a zoo,” said Trudi Plummer, the museum’s director of education. “We allow some guided touching of the animals … in no other natural history museum are people allowed to touch them.”
Hands-on displays of antlers, pelts, and other artifacts also are part of the exhibit, enriching the experience for children and grown-ups.
“We had the same exhibit in 2006 and it was a huge success,” said Plummer. “For the past four years, we’ve had children dragging their parents by the hand up the stairs looking for the animals, so we decided to bring it back probably for the last time.”
But where did these animals come from? A major wildlife collector originally donated the full-mounted animals on display in the SAFARI exhibit to the Smithsonian Institution. In 2003, the Smithsonian was faced with the need to find the collection a new home. A Maine high school biology and taxidermy teacher heard about the collection and came to the rescue. Two Maine institutions, Nokomis High School and College of the Atlantic, were able to acquire these trophy animals for educational purposes.
In the summer of 2006, Maine Discovery Museum created the SAFARI exhibition and became the only venue to exhibit this collection in its entirety, with additional mounts from hunter and collector Kenneth Winters.
“Even if you saw SAFARI when it was here in 2006, we have so many additional animals from Africa this time, that it’s a brand new experience,” Andrea Stark, MDM’s executive director, said in a recent press release. Stark also points out that children experience things in new ways as they grow. “The 8-year-old child viewing SAFARI has an entirely different way of looking at it than the 4-year-old.”
The exhibit, which runs through the end of August, also ties into summer camps and programs being offered throughout at the museum.
“It’s an opportunity for us to teach some extraordinary science this summer to our campers and the general public,” said Plummer. “Mostly, it’s just really awesome.”