Wild Life in the Red

Once collectors’ curiosities, now endangered species

From birds to butterflies, flowers to fish… explorers once scoured the globe to find exotic species to display in museums or private collections.

Here, our partner museums present a range of natural history objects. They tell stories of collectors and early environmentalists, but also of species that have been pushed to the brink of extinction.

From plundering – to restoring – our planet  

Many of our objects come from the golden era of collecting, when attitudes to the natural world were different. We are using these objects to tell stories of the human activities that, together with climate change, have caused biodiversity loss and threatened many of our species. But also to highlight the early environmentalists who saw the danger in plundering our planet.

Yet there is also hope for the future. We introduce you to the conservation bodies that are working to save threatened species – and what you can do to help.

As Sir David Attenborough said in ‘A Life on Our Planet’: “Nature is our greatest ally, the more we help it to recover, the more it’ll help us with climate change.”

The world’s most endangered fish
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Poisoned, ploughed up, covered in concrete
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Flying on the edge of extinction
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Perilous times for the pollinators of our planet
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Wild Life in the Red

What do you think about our exhibition?

Sawfish are also called carpenter sharks...but they are rays, not sharks!

There’s also a species called a sawshark, but that’s, well, a shark!

What the heck is a lek?

Males great bustards perform spectacular courtship displays, gathering at a ‘lek’ or small display ground to try to impress the females.

Road Runner!

The great bustard has a dignified slow walk but tends to run when disturbed, rather than fly.

Belly Buster!

The hen-bird on display at The Salisbury Museum was one of the last great bustards to be eaten in the town!

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