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Northern White Rhinoceros

Rhino horns, which are prized by Chinese medicine, have been removed from the mounted specimens on display at the Royal Museum for Central Africa over fears they would be stolen amid a spree of museum robberies across Europe.
The Northern white rhino, a genetically distinct subspecies from the Southern white rhino, was once quite abundant throughout North-Central Equatorial Africa. As of 2011, they are considered as probably extinct in the wild. (IUCN)

‘Rhinoceros simum cottoni’

Its very existence was not known until Captain A.St.H. Gibbons brought back a white rhino skull and horns form Lado district, and exhibited in America in 1900. But it was Major Powell-Cotton’s discovery which caused quite a sensation in scientific circles.
In 1908, he presented a skull and horns of a Lado white rhinoceros to the British Museum enabling the curator in London, Mr. Lydekker to establish a new subspecies, which he named ‘Ceratotherium simum cottoni’ in honour of Powell-Cotton.
Since that time, several sportsmen have subsequently brought to Europe specimens of this northern race. Powell-Cotton collected a series of complete skins and skeletons on an expedition into the Lado enclave in 1904-1907. One of these, now a taxidermied rhinoceros in the Royal Museum for Central Africa, was mounted by Rowland Ward. Another gigantic bull, shot by Armand Solvay during safari in the Lado enclave, was donated to the Tervuren Museum and also mounted by Ward.
White Rhino of Lado, collected by Solvay, c.1909. (Photo : J. Desneux)
White Rhinoceros of Lado, collected by Solvay.
White Rhinoceros of Lado, collected by Powell-Cotton.
White Rhinoceros of Lado, collected by Powell-Cotton.

In Unknown Africa

Powell-Cotton, who had spent more than 26 years exploring the most remote and unknown parts of Africa, had had a good many opportunities of observing the game. Aware that species were in danger of “vanishing”, he believed protecting game from wasteful and unethical hunters was a wise and necessary precaution crucial to the survival of wildlife.
Although an avid hunter himself, Powell-Cotton selectively hunted in order to collect natural history specimens that he thought would be useful to science. While we have rather different ideas of how conservation issues are perceived and tackled today, the Major’s exceptionally careful and detailed field notes helped advance our scientific understanding of the wildlife of Africa and provide an invaluable historic record for environmentalists and conservationists of today who are seeking to protect endangered species.
In his book, entitled ‘In Unknown Africa’, Powell-Cotton had predicted that some species were doomed to disappear due to man's exploits and ignorance :
“One day when it’s too late, it will be found that a species belonging to some spatial district has been extinguished, and it will then be realised that the only specimens extant are in some museum on the Continent”.

White Rhinoceros of Lado

Armand Solvay and his bull rhino at Lado 1907.
Although the Lado Enclave was a small, remote area in central Africa, it was well known for its enormous herds of elephants which drew big-game hunters from around the world between 1904 and 1912.
Armand Solvay travelled to Lado for hunting, and shot a very exceptional male white rhinoceros, with the horn measuring 0m98. Here is his account of the day:
6th March 1907 - “At 7 am I come upon a trail of two rhinos leading away from the watering hole. Instantly I follow up the tracks and at 11 o'clock I arrive at the spot where they are taking their noonday rest, seeing them both at about five hundred meters. I advance up to a hundred meters as a nearer approach could not be made for lack of cover. I fired three to four shots at one of them, but upon following the trail of the beasts, I spot another rhino at three or four hundred meters away, coming out from behind a bush; it is much bigger than the first two. It continues its very slow trot over a plain scattered with trees on average four or five per hectare; and also a few bushy stems. As soon as I saw the brute, I went after it; I advanced with precaution to a small tree a hundred meters from the it ; whilst wondering how I was going to approach closer I heard a noise on my right; I turned and saw two rhinos advancing towards me at full trot; they passed me at forty meters without suspecting my presence. I resist the temptation of shooting, for they are not as beautiful as the one in front of me. However, the bull has moved away a little and is at the foot of a tree, another tree served as a cover for me to approach it at sixty meters, but it moves off again at a very slow trot showing its rear. I run as fast as I can making no noise and stop at the tree it had just left. The rhino stands motionless at forty meters presenting its entire profile. I lay in wait for it to move two steps, which shall enable me to aim a shot. After a moment of anxious suspense ... The beast moves forward, I fire, it takes flight at a quick gallop; I fire two more shots as it disappears at four hundred meters into the thicket; I go on, the beast is lying flat on the ground, knees bent. One would have thought it to be alive, it is faced towards me, fifteen meters away. My Shikari tells me to proceed with caution before I put a bullet between its eyes; it moves a little, but it is no doubt a reflex movement.”

Richard Lydekker (1849-1915)

White Rhinoceros of Lado, Records of Big Game, 1914.
Mr. Lydekker announced the discovery in a notice of The Field - February 22, No. 2878: 319, 1908:
Major Powell-Cotton has just presented to the Natural History Museum the skull and horns of a male white rhinoceros killed by him in the Lado District of Equatorial Central Africa. The skull indicates an immature animal, the last upper molar tooth on each side not having yet come into use, while the last premolar has not been replaced by its permanent successor. On contrasting this specimen with skulls of the typical southern race of 'Rhinoceros simus' I have been surprised (considering the distance separating the haunts of the two animals) to find how comparatively slight are the differences. Of the two southern skulls used in the comparison one belongs to the male obtained some years ago by Mr. Coryndon, while the other is a specimen which has been long in the museum, and of which the sex is unknown. They both indicate fully adult animals, somewhat in form from the first, it may possibly be that of a female.

As regards the teeth (which are of quite a different pattern to those of the black species), I can find no difference between the southern and the northern skulls. The latter is, however, readily distinguished by the shorter and wider form of the nasal bones which support the front horn. In the skull of Mr. Coryndon's specimen these bones project 6in. in advance of their lateral supports, and measure 7¼in. in maximum width in front; whereas the corresponding dimensions in the Lado skull are 5½in. and 7¾in. If hte second South African skull were used as the basis of comparison, the difference would be greater: but that skull, as already mentioned, may pertain to a female. It may be added that if the Lado skull were fully mature the width across the nasal bone would probably be still greater, as a character of this mature is one which might naturally be expected to intensify with age.

The Lado white rhinoceros thus presents an exaggeration of the feature from which the species received its designation of simus ('snub-nosed' or 'blunt-nosed'), and the difference appears sufficiently marked to admit of its being regarded as a separate local race, for which the name of 'Rhinoceros simus cottoni' will be appropriate. Of this race the skull in the Museum will be the type. The horns of this specimen present no characters by which they can be satisfactorily distinguished from southern examples. The front one has an extremely massive basis, and curves very sharply backwards ; its total length being 30½in. In this connection it may be mentioned that two horns in the museum brought from Lake Tchad district in the early part of last century appear, although of small size, to belong to R. simus cottoni, and will be so labelled. I may add that I have never yet seen a female rhinoceros horns from Equatorial Africa of the long and slender type of those upon which Gray founded the so-called 'Rhinoceros oswelli'; and the absence of horns of such a type in the female of the Lado rhinoceros may eventually prove to be another distinctive characteristic of that race.
  • Rowland Ward, A Naturalist's Life Study in the Art of Taxidermy, London: Rowland Ward, 1913.
  • Powell-Cotton, P.H.G., In Unknown Africa, London: Hurst and Blackett, 1904
  • Powell-Cotton, P.H.G., A Journey Through the Eastern Portion of the Congo State, The Geographical Journal, [pp. 371–382], Vol. 30, No. 4 (Oct. 1907).
  • Dr. H. Schouteden, Le Rhinoceros Blanc, Revue Zoologique Africaine, [p.118], vol.I, Bruxelles: Hayez, 1911.
  • Rinoresourcecenter: Dr. H. Schouteden, Les Rhinoceros Congolais, Revue Zoologique Africaine, [p.19-30], vol.I, Bruxelles: Hayez, 1927.
  • Lydekker, Richard, The Game Animals of Africa, London: Rowland Ward, 1908.
  • Pat Morris, Rowland Ward Taxidermist to the World, MPM 2003.

The Creation of the Congo Museum - Tervuren

Colonial mission is staged as heroic adventure
with Belgium playing the role of savior and civilizer of Congo, 1897.
The Royal Museum for Central Africa — a museum with a worldwide reputation in the fields of natural history and anthropology — was a product of the 1897 Colonial Exhibition in Tervuren. There, the 'Palais des Colonies' was purpose-built for the occasion to showcase and promote commercial and public interest for King Leopold II's Congo Free State. Following its great success, as well as arousing wide scientific interest, the temporary exhibition was transformed into a permanent cultural and scientific institution, ‘Musée du Congo’, which opened to the public in 1898.
To accommodate the museum's rapidly growing collection a new neoclassical palace-style building was designed by French architect Charles Girauld. Its construction began in 1906 and was inaugurated as the new ‘Musée du Congo Belge’ in 1910 by King Albert I, renamed ‘Musée Royal du Congo Belge’ in 1952, and finally, when Congo gained Independence in 1960 it became ‘Musée Royal de l'Afrique Centrale’.

Musée du Congo in pictures

Palais des Colonies became Musée du Congo, and a permanent exhibition was installed in 1898.
The building was designed by the Belgian architect Albert-Philippe Aldophe and the classical gardens by French landscape architect Elie Lainé.
Architects associated with the Art Nouveau movement contributed to the interior design of the Palais des Colonies, such as Paul Hankar, Henry van de Velde, Gustave Serrurier-Bovy, and Georges Hobé.
The ‘ethnographic’ sections were grouped in six compartments, separated by Art Nouveau partitions designed by Hankar, incorporating sixteen friezes decorated with paintings of ‘indigenous scenes’ by Adolphe Crespin and Edouard Duyck. The exhibits included eight groups of life-size figures representing Congolese ethnic groups by Isidore De Rudder, Julien Dillens, and Charles Samuel. Consisting of twenty-one polychrome sculptures adorned with authentic items of dress and accessories to enhance their realism.
Musée du Congo : Ethnographic room, 1898.
Musée du Congo : Natural History collection, 1898.
Musée du Congo : Natural History collection, 1898.
Musée du Congo : Fluid-preserved specimens of reptiles and fish, before 1910.
Musée du Congo : Ethnographic room, 1898.
Musée du Congo : Vuakusu-Batetela defending a woman against an Arab by Charles Samuel, 1897.
Musée du Congo : Native carriers by Julien Dillens, 1897.
Musée du Congo : A Teke chief of the Cristal Mountains by Julien Dillens, 1897.
Musée du Congo : Bangala fishermen by Isidore De Rudder, 1897.
Musée du Congo : Sango dancers by Julien Dillens, 1897.
Musée du Congo : Azande musicians by Charles Samuel, 1897.
Musée du Congo : Mayombe family scene by Isidore De Rudder, 1897.
Musée du Congo : Zappo zap blacksmiths by Isidore De Rudder, 1897.

Five interior scenes by Alexandre (Albert-Edouard Drains)
@ wellcome images uk

Colonial Guide 1897

The Official Guide of the 1897 Colonial Exposition held in Tervuren : Guide de la section de l'Etat indépendant du Congo à l'Exposition de Bruxelles - Tervueren en 1897 - Theodore Masui.
  • Theodore Masui, Guide de la section de l'Etat indépendant du Congo à l'Exposition de Bruxelles - Tervueren en 1897, Bruxelles : Impr. Veuve Monnom, 1897.
  • Maarten Couttenier, Congo tentoongesteld: een geschiedenis van de Belgische antropologie en het museum van Tervuren (1882-1925), Leuven : Acco/KMMA, 2005.