Doncaster Council hands over rare black rhino head and beetle collection to museum

Doncaster Council has handed over a rare black rhino head and a beetle collection to a museum after finding it in storage.

By George Torr, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 12th April 2022, 2:07 pm

Officers within the heritage department said the possessions have ‘no links to Doncaster’ and said the taxidermy rhino head did have the potential to be a ‘security risk’

Documents show that the beetle collection was likely given to the borough from the Natural History Museum and ‘never returned’.

Black Rhinos are now critically endangered and such specimens are important as research tools.

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BROOKFIELD, IL - SEPTEMBER 24: A black rhinoceros calf named Kianga stands next to his mother Shima at Brookfield Zoo September 24, 2003 in Brookfield, Illinois. Following a 15-month wait, the male black rhinoceros Kianga, named by the keepers after a Swahili word that means "sunshine after rain", was born September 19, 2003. The third calf born to Shima, the zoo's 18-year-old female black rhinoceros, and Nakili, on loan from San Diego Wild Animal Park, Kianga is the 11th black rhinoceros born at the zoo. Rhinoceroses are an endangered species and therefore the birth is considered particularly significant. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

DMBC bosses said the specimen is ‘particularly valued’, having been mounted by 19th century taxidermist Rowland Ward.

Rhinoceros horns are extremely valuable in Chinese medicine and over the last 10-15 years, there have been cases of rhino heads in museums being vandalised for their horns, often ‘involving violence to staff members’, officers said.

DMBC staff said they ‘do not feel that we can care for such a valuable object’ which does not ‘have a Doncaster provenance’.

The Longhorn beetle collection consists of around 7,000 species and the collection is said to be ‘internationally important’.

Danum Gallery, Library and Museum

But staff said the collection is poorly stored in old wooden cabinets which means that the collection is susceptible to pest infestation.

The council no longer has a natural history specialist who could give the collection the ‘care and attention it deserves’.

Bosses said many researchers ‘do not know that the collection exists’.

It’s unclear whether the council received any income from the disposals but the document was published under a ‘Officer Decision which have a financial impact (income/expenditure) between £25k - £100k’.

Laura Trinogga from Doncaster Museum, said: “Having contacted the Natural Sciences Collections Association, we were advised that Leeds Museums and Galleries would like to have the rhino head as part of their collection. It is currently on loan to them pending the transfer of ownership.

“Following an externally funded collections review, it was recommended by a former entomology curator at the Natural History Museum that the NHM could take the beetle collection on and look after it to a higher standard, as well as making it accessible to researchers.

“It is also likely that a proportion of the collection came from The Natural History Museum originally and the material was never returned.”