One of the more fascinating stories I've caught up with: imagine being responsible for filling your very own Noah's ark! Taxidermist Larry Clingerman has been charged with such a task. He's an assistant curator for the Chi Mei Culture Foundation's Museum of Natural History in Taiwan.
Big Game Hunting
Clingerman Taxidermy of North Rose, New York has a unique job order to fill: furnishing stuffings of every fish, animal and bird in the world- for a Taiwan Museum. Upon completion, it's targeted to dwarf the renowned Smithsonian facility in Washington. Most of the specimens can be found in the United States, but others require dangerous big game hunting assignments... with LARRY CLINGERMAN.
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Already a year and a half into the project, Clingerman says with a thousand specimens
collected already he's barely scratched the surface of the animal kingdom. He doesn't plan
to see completion of the task. Species today may become extinct by the time the museum is
finished. This past May and June, Larry camped in Zimbabwe, and in Southern Africa,
bagging 92 species of animals along with 40 different kinds of birds. He called it
exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time, constantly in danger from lions, leopards
and other beasts.
CLINGERMAN: You can't outrun any animal in Africa. A lot of people get killed over there
with wildlife: poison snakes, puff adders, cobras, black mamas.. and we were in constant
problems with them. One of the professional hunters was bit by a poisonous snake over
there. Another professional hunter down in South Africa was horned by a rhino. One of the
trackers we used had his side crushed in by an elephant. Boy, let me tell ya, the animals
are a constant threat to your life.
The first lesson learned in the African jungle is: let your trackers or professional
hunter go first.
CLINGERMAN: I mean when you turn around and your trackers are up trees, you know that you
got a problem on your hands. They've done their job, they've pointed it out and say "there
he is," and their job is done. And it's very easy to find yourself in trouble without even
looking for it.. You're constantly in check with the wind. Because if animals smell you,
they'll either leave or they're going to be after you. A lot of the animals will stay with
the giraffes for instance. They use the giraffes ability to see over the brush. Animals
will stay with zebras because zebras have such a keen sense- animals use other animals all
the time for warning signals. If you see birds fly up you know the animals have been
spooked. Monkeys climb trees and they holler at you. The babboons, they holler at you.
Elephants can cause real havoc. A stampede can level villages and crops. Clingerman
was told about the peeved elephant.. after the animal collided with an automobile,
stomping the car to smithereens. The government allowed Larry to take a 55-year old bull
elephant. Setting out bait worked for a blonde-maned lion but not in the quest for a
CLINGERMAN: We baited a leopard for several days. We were very unsuccessful with that.
The leopard that I got, we were watching a water hole and a big wart hog came in to drink.
And the leopard came right in on top of that wart hog for his supper. And I got him just
before he got the wart hog.
Larry's closest brush with death came along with a confrontation versus a cape
buffalo- called the most dangerous animal in the world.
CLINGERMAN: Yes, because he'll stalk you. They actually will stalk you. They just feel
that they're gonna hold their ground and challenge you. The same with elephants- the
young ones- very dangerous. They want to show their control, their superiority. And this
cape that we did collect did set up an ambush and just a stroke of luck kept us from
being killed by him. Two capes that were with him left him and ran. He stayed behind to
take us on. We were in elephant grass 10 feet high. And we ran to the side to get a
better look upon a knoll. And when we ran out, we could see him standing, waiting for
us.. oh, he would have gored us, he would have put us right down.
It's said that one minute after you shoot at a cape buffalo, one of you will be dead.
One bullet usually isn't enough. In this case, the cape did turn away instead of
continuing his charge.
CLINGERMAN: He just lifted his head to make his charge when I fired. But that didn't stop
him, that turned him. It was another two minutes before he actually stopped. I had more
ammo and we had three people there with guns. But after hunting him, I'm not convinced
that we could have stopped him.
One of the lasting impressions Clingerman has come away from this trip to Africa is
that animal life is not as endangered as newspapers and TV documentaries would lead you
CLINGERMAN: Animals are very, very plentiful. I half-believed the things that I had been
told about over there. And when you get over there and you see it, it's much different
than what you'd see on television. And this is what impresses me: that I don't have to
rely upon what I see in the media. We saw it first-hand and it's a difference of day and
Taxidermist and big game hunter, Larry Clingerman. Bill Flynn WXXI 1370.
- aired nationally