Mammals, reptiles, insects or shells: each specimen kept at the Natural History Museum of Bourges has its own story

Ludovic Besson, an erudite and persistent researcher, knows hundreds of them. Installing them, and then telling his visitors about them, he considers “the preservation of traces of the work of our great ancestors.”

These are the researcher and collector (birds, mammals brought from Africa and India) Guy-René Babo (1888-1963), canon and entomologist Gabriel Fouche (1865-1949), a native of Anrichemon and the founding father of the museum (he donated his collection of insects), Indian Raymond Rollinat (1859-1931), ornithologist Albert Maes (1845-1914), who bequeathed about 7,000 birds to the museum, and others…

Journey of Hans the Elephant from Ceylon

The saga (because it’s one) about Hans the elephant was only fully revealed in 2003. This is a small Asian elephant, caught around 1773 in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and brought to Holland. Installed in the menagerie of Guillaume V, it was captured by the French occupation forces in 1795. His transport by boat to the menagerie of the Jardin des Botanis in Paris lasted at least six months.

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premium Visiting nature reserves to discover the hidden face of the Natural History Museum of Bourges.

At the beginning of 1802, pneumonia prevails, and Hans immediately naturalizes (until 1803 on a wooden frame). In the summer of 1931 it was donated to the Musée Berruye. It is none other than the oldest naturalization of the elephant known to us in France. Hans occupies a place of honor in the museum between the camel presented at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1867 and the two bison donated by Poland in 1980 to President Giscard d’Estaing. They were placed in the Haute-Touches park, in Indre.

But in the reserves there is another extremely rare specimen, a real star: kouprey, or “gray bull from Cambodia”, also a berruyer from 1931. “A gift from the Ministry of the Navy,” the then laconic label read.

Kouprey, a very discreet star

In 2003, during a symposium organized in Bourges, the cattle, which reminded no one of anything, attracted enough attention to analyze their DNA. We knew then that it was a male, and that the species found in Cambodia and also in Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam had suffered so much from wars (in Indo-China, then Vietnam, and then Cambodia) and from the massive use of defoliants (in particular, napalm and agent orange) that today, if not extinct, then at least “is in critical danger of extinction.”

premium Nature as if you were there during the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum of Bourges.

“We know,” explains Ludovic Besson, “that this animal lived in the menagerie of the Botanical Gardens in Paris around 1871. It is assumed that earlier it could be tamed in Cambodia. The last living specimen was observed there in 1988. Our only naturalized whole in the world.”

collections
The Bourges Museum, whose collections are still under inventory, has a total of over 170,000 items. Compared to the 68 million views of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris (MNHN, on 12 sites) and the 2.5 million views of the Museum of Toulouse, which would be the second largest in France.

Birds
More than 6,000 stuffed birds and about 2,000 eggs are kept in Bourges. This is the sixteenth ornithological collection in France.

the bats
Bourges is one of the international capitals of these animals. The museum has more than 2,000 copies. And more… The Berruyer Museum has 3,000 mammals, 500 reptiles, 75,000 insects, 2,000 shells and crustaceans, and more than 30,000 pages of herbariums. The institution offers more than 8000 documents in direct access.

naturalization The cost of an ordinary sparrow is 170 euros, the cost of a Siberian tigress is more than 10,000 euros. Count about 1500 euros for an owl.

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