In celebrating Carl Akeley, a call to preserve natural world

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 May 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

HOLLEY – The Clarendon Historical Society threw another birthday for the community’s most famous son, Carl Akeley, on Wednesday. The top photo shows a comic book image of Akeley fighting with leopard in Africa.

Akeley survived and managed to kill the leopard in Africa. Akeley was a world renowned taxidermist and inventor. He was instrumental in creating the first national park in Africa.

Provided photo – Carl Akeley is pictured with a leopard in Africa that he killed with his bare hands after it attacked him.

Last year the Historical Society celebrated Akeley’s 150th birthday with 150 people turning out for the party, which featured a presentation by the author of a book about Akeley’s life.

Jay Kirk wrote “Kingdom Under Glass,” a book that traced Akeley’s upbringing on Hinds Road in Clarendon, when he started “stuffing” birds and small animals, to his ground-breaking advances in taxidermy and his adventures in Africa.

The 151st party featured another prominent Akeley enthusiast, Stephen Quinn. He worked in the Akeley Hall of African Mammals, where many of Akeley’s elephants, lions, rhinos and gorillas are displayed in New York City at the American Museum of Natural History.

Steven Quinn addresses about 100 people on Wednesday at Holley Junior-Senior High School, sharing photos and insights from a trip to Africa, retracing Carl Akeley’s trips to the continent from 1921 to 1926.

Quinn said the mountain gorillas are threatened, losing habitat and suffering attacks from predators and illnesses. The gorilla pictured has a nose fungus, Quinn said.

“The natural world is to be cherished,” Quinn said. “We’re accountable to the natural world.”

Quinn is recently retired from the American Museum of Natural History. He said the Akeley Hall “is truly a magnificent place.”

Quinn wanted to retrace Akeley’s route in the eastern Congo, where Akeley and his team visited from 1921 to 1926, bringing back paintings, photographs, and specimens collected in the field nearly a century ago.

Akeley became a passionate advocate for the mountain gorillas and other wildlife, and pushed for a national park in the area.

Quinn in his presentation also highlighted the work of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Program, which provides care to sick gorillas, cleaning and suturing cuts and providing medicine.

“The work they do is truly wonderful,” Quinn said. “They work they do wouldn’t be possible without Carl Akeley, who gave his life and is responsible for the first national park in Africa.”

Akeley was on his fifth trip to the Congo in 1926 when he died of fever. He is buried in Africa, just miles from where he encountered his first gorilla.

The taxidermist community is working to raise money for monument for Akeley at Hillside Cemetery in Holley.