There are over 2000 marine mammal specimens in Te Papa's collection. They consist of skeletal material (articulated and non-articulated), preserved animals or parts thereof, skins, casts and mounts of individual animals.
Lots of us care about saving the whales, but not many get as hands-on as technician Stephanie Ho. She’s spent the last nine months caring for whale bones in Te Papa’s collections. It’s a messy, smelly and painstaking job, but it’s protecting these important specimens for the future.
Tabua (pronounced “tambua” – the b has a ‘mb’ sound) are pierced and braided whales’ teeth, originally taken from the lower jaw of sperm whales. Fijians consider them to be kavakaturanga (chiefly items) presented at important ceremonies, including weddings, births, and funerals. Tabua used to be the most effective way to give weight to an apology or atonement.
Reassembling bones: How to build a Hector’s dolphin
Navigating brittle bones and teeth the size of rice, Thomas Schultz, Collection Manager Science, reflects on putting a Hector’s dolphin back together for an exhibition that would tour North America for ten years.
Our fish team picked up a great white shark, an endangered animal and a protected species. The shark had been ensnared in a fishing net and was dead by the time the fishermen had pulled it in, but the team were able to give the specimen a wash and have a closer look.
Between March and November 2013 there were 1894 decorated cardboard shark fins made by school students sent to the New Zealand Shark Alliance for its campaign to ban shark finning in New Zealand waters.