Bringing the past to life with colour

Nature

Moa Hunt

Moa_mock_hunt

Not a real moa, unfortunately, as moas probably died out early in the fifteenth century, though there have been claims of sightings since, unverified.

This is an early 20th century reconstruction of a moa hunt, in the Dunedin Public Gardens, New Zealand.

The reconstruction was the work of Augustus Hamilton, registrar at the Otago Museum at the time. He persuaded Peter Buck, Hēmi Papakura and Tūtere Wī Repa to pose as the hunters, then took this photo, which was reproduced at the 1906–7 Christchurch International Exhibition.

There was one mistake with the reconstruction. An analysis of moa vertebral articulation suggests that they probably carried their heads forward, more like a chicken than an ostrich.

 

Moa_mock_hunt

Original B&W photo.

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George Mottershead

George Mottershead

Mary the chimpanzee in 1937 working on Chester Zoo’s new lion enclosure, ably assisted by the zoo’s founder, George Mottershead.

The story of the Mottershead family and the founding of Chester Zoo is the subject of a new television series on BBC 1.

 

George Mottershead

Original B&W photo.


Jumbo the Elephant

Jumbo_and_Matthew_Scott
Jumbo the Elephant, about 1882, with, among others, his keeper Matthew Scott, possibly at Madison Square Garden, where he was exhibited as part of the Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Jumbo was given his name about 1865, when he was at London Zoo, by the London Zookeeper Association leader Anoshan Anathajeyasri. The name wasn’t a reference to size; we get the word for something large from the name. It was probably a variant of “Jumbe”, a Swahili word meaning “Chief”.

Jumbo_and_Matthew_Scott
Original B&W photo.


Passenger Pigeon

Martha_last_passenger_pigeon_1914
This photo, taken in 1914, shows Martha, the last surviving Passenger Pigeon, which died later that year. There are several photos of these birds in colour, but only the ones that have fallen into the hands of taxidermists. This is probably the last picture of a live specimen.

Martha_last_passenger_pigeon_1914
Original B&W photo.


Quagga

Quagga_photo
Equus quagga quagga was a sub-species of the plains zebra of South Africa that went extinct in the wild by 1878, and completely extinct in 1883, when the last captive Quagga died in Amsterdam Zoo. This 1870 photo shows the only Quagga, a mare at London Zoo, to be photographed.

 

Quagga_photo
Original B&W photo.


Tasmanian Tiger

thylacine_tasmanian_tiger2

The last known Thylacinus cynocephalus in existence died in 1936, at Hobart Zoo. This photo is, as far as I can ascertain, that animal, and I think it dates from 1933. *

Most commonly known as the Tasmanian Tiger, because of the stripes, it’s sometimes called the Tasmanian Wolf, as it has dog-like features. In fact, it was neither, but a marsupial that had evolved to fill a similar ecological niche to those creatures.

thylacine_tasmanian_tiger

My first attempt, with brighter colouration, based on contemporary paintings. I redid this photo after a comment (see below) suggested more subdued colours. I prefer my new version, but I can’t be certain the old one is wrong. The commenter, Gareth, has provided some information that may help though. First, a link to a comprehensive website about the Tasmanian Tiger, from which these pictures of skins come:

taz2

These pictures would seem to confirm that there was a fair bit of variation (though it has been pointed out that the pelts are in poor condition which affects the colour) and this painting from 1817, by John Lewin has a definite red tinge to it, which may have been picked up by later artists, and exaggerated.

thylacineJohn Lewin

So it looks like either of my versions could still be right.

Except Gareth also gave me a name, Alison Reid. Alison was the main keeper for the Tasmanian tigers and de facto curator of the zoo when the last of them died, and described them as being ‘dun’ or ‘rabbit’ coloured. Since the animal in the photo is one of those she was most familiar with, I think the colours I used in the new version are most likely correct. There may have been other more brightly coloured Tasmanian Tigers, but probably not in Hobart Zoo.

thylacine_tasmanian_tiger
Original B&W photo.

 

* Correction: It seems that this photo was probably taken in 1928, and is of a juvenile male that died the day after it was photographed.