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Lost Film

Lost Elephant Film - Rowland Ward 1957

In 1956, The Royal Museum of the Belgian Congo organized a Zoological Expedition to Kasai and Ituri to collect large and small mammals to be preserved and displayed in "Congo's Fauna Pavilion" at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. The exhibition featured Congo's rare animals and a giant mounted bull elephant, which is an example of the handiwork of one of the most unusual practitioners of taxidermy in the world, a London firm called Rowland Ward Ltd.
Completed in 1957, the elephant was one of the last full mount elephants prepared by Ward's studio. Full-size elephants were not an everyday job and few taxidermist ever rose to the challenge of attempting to prepare one. The job took 12 men, six months and called not only for the best possible use of craftsmen's knowledge and skill, but for a great deal of ingenuity.
Gerald Best (with hat) bringing out the Brussels elelphant from the Leighton Place workshop.(1957)
Construction of the packing case before dispatching it to Brussels.(1957)
The mounted elephant was loaded and moved to the docks in London on Monday 25 November 1957, and arrived at the site in Brussels on Thursday 28 November 1957.

The process of constructing and mounting the Tervuren elephant in the Leighton Place workshop was filmed. The film, a Kodachrome - 16mm - 45 minute documentary, is an interesting historical record of this rather unusual and challenging event.
Gerald Best, managing director of Ward's from 1946 to 1969, presented the documentary at the opening of the Brussels World's Fair, Expo58. Further arrangement were made to screen the film in France, Switzerland, London and the United States. Two screening events are known to have taken place in the USA : Mr. Best presented his film at The Adventurers Club, Chicago on 8 October 1958 and at the Dallas Gun Club on 14 Octobre 1958.

Something [?] was also shown on BBC TV around 18 November 1957. Gerald Best mentions in letters to the museum keeper, that they had been making a film for the BBC and it had been show on BBC TV including an interview with himself.
Film stills, 1957.
The film is lost, or at least presumed lost, and its existence is only known through publicity stills and written descriptions. There is currently no confirmed title for the documentary. However, "An Elephant Is Created", a document about the mounting of the elephant for the Brussels Expo'58, written by Gerald Best; "The Elephant Story", notes detailing the modeling of the full mount by Arthur Manning, and "Taxidermy in Piccadilly" the screening event at the Adventurers Club in Chicago may provide indication of a potential title.

Could it be that this unique bit of Rowland Ward history
has vanished without a trace ?

Annick Aldo's aim is to trace the Rowland Ward mounting-of-an-elephant documentary if at all possible.
CAN YOU HELP - YES, YOU CAN be of great assistance if you could share this. - If you have any information about this film or anyone that might be able to help Annick find this missing film please drop a message.


  1. I recall that we showed the film at the staff Christmas gathering after we moved the office /workshops to Crawley Rd, Wood Green in roughly 1973.
    The film was kept in my office, but was only discovered missing several years later when we wanted to show it again.
    It is unlikely to have been destroyed, so hopefully someone acquired it (possibly from a friend?) and it's probably now been sold to a collector. Regards, Anthony Best.

    1. Thank you Tony. I haven't found a trace of the film yet, but will keep hunting. Hopefully the person who may have it, will realize its importance, take proper care of it, and share the film with the world some day.