What to do with an inherited tiger's head?
January 18, 2009 1:26 PM   Subscribe

We inherited a tiger's head from our dead grandfather, which was hunted around 1940. We'd like to know how much it is likely to cost, and what people think we should do with it; donate it to a museum? to an art college? to an insane asylum? Any suggestions appreciated. Photos are here, here, and here.

You can see photos of it here, here, and here.
posted by omnigut to Grab Bag (39 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry, the "more details" section was a mistake
posted by omnigut at 1:26 PM on January 18, 2009

Oh, and this photo shows the damage to one of the teeth. Thanks!
posted by omnigut at 1:27 PM on January 18, 2009

I'm pretty sure I'll be of the minority opinion, but I think I'd take Mr. Llama, my kid, and Llamadog and have a funeral for it.

Sorry, I'm an animal softie.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:30 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

You might call your local zoo's education department. Sometimes they collect biofacts for educational presentations etc. Although that one's pretty gruesome and obviously a trophy so...maybe they wouldn't want it. But you might ask; they might have further suggestions. I kind of like the art college idea, too. Or what about a theater? I can see that as an unusual set piece.
posted by Neofelis at 1:31 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sell it, because it is AWESOME, and people (like me) would pay money for it. Ebay is calling. Will you pick up the phone?
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 1:33 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

You know, I might keep it. Sadly, there's some chance they may not be making more tigers in the future.
posted by limeonaire at 1:46 PM on January 18, 2009

Hell, I'd buy it and put it in my bathroom to freak guests out. That would be awesome. Ebay that sucker!
posted by youcancallmeal at 1:46 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

My family has two deer heads that are just ... there. They're wooden carvings of deer heads with real antlers. Have never been able to get rid of them, and don't want to waste them by tossing them into a dumpster. You might be stuck with it. I'd hang on to them if I were you.
posted by Xere at 1:51 PM on January 18, 2009

Definitely sell it on ebay. Museums have such specific collecting policies, you would really have to do your research to find one that would want it. Also they have very strict regulations about accepting donations, especially of controversial items like this. Even if they accepted it, it probably would go straight to storage in some big warehouse and not see the light of day for decades.
posted by Weng at 1:51 PM on January 18, 2009

Yes please, sell this. I want it. You can just give it to me if you prefer.
posted by rhizome at 1:55 PM on January 18, 2009

out of curiosity, what would people talking ebay be willing to pay for it on ebay? or expect other people might pay?

I see you're in NYC; there is that random weird stuff shop on East 9th st you could check in with, and see if they are into tiger heads, or the guys on Houston that sell all kinds of crazy shit. Probably some other places like that too, if you don't want to handle the shipping etc yourself...
posted by mdn at 1:58 PM on January 18, 2009

I have no idea. I'm poor, so I'm probably not a good gauge of what the market will bear. That said, if the OP is interested in donating it to someone, I can't imagine that's their goal anyway. (If it were to get donated to me for example, I could be convinced to take it to random places and take pictures of it. You know, random bars, Niagara Falls, the Empire State Building, Montreal... and then it could have a resting place with me. Just sayin'...)
posted by youcancallmeal at 2:02 PM on January 18, 2009

Well, my parents are fairly set on giving it "for the common good." I think they want to use give it to an exhibit that shows people how bad it is to hunt. Probably don't have a chance of success; after all, it looks like the taxonomist has placed it in its more ferocious pose, and not cute and doe-eyed.

So perhaps a zoo. Anyone know what it would likely go for?
posted by omnigut at 2:12 PM on January 18, 2009

is it legal to sell tiger parts on eBay? Aren't they protected animals?

I like to make imaginary creature faux taxidermy sculptures. I'd swap a commission for Fluffy. All the money I make goes towards care & maintenance of spoiled live critters anyhow, a dead one would be a novelty. You'd have to tell me if he'd rather wear a fez or a napoleon hat.

I have a sculpture Flickr set with a couple of examples. I'd link but the iPhone says no. Flickr link is in my profile.
posted by Lou Stuells at 2:17 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Before trying to sell it, check to make sure you're legally allowed to sell it. Tigers being an endangered species nowadays, the standard practice is to grandfather in any existing specimens like your own, but to restrict their sale.
My university marching band had a tiger skin + head that was donated to us back in the 10's, and if memory serves we were not allowed to sell it, by law, and required some special permits to travel down to the U.S. with it, to prove that we've owned it since the grandfathering.
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:25 PM on January 18, 2009

Aren't they protected animals?

If the same international import/export treaties cover endangered fauna as they do flora, you are allowed to legally resell it provided the kill was done before the treaties went into effect. There are additional restrictions surrounding more "touchy" subjects (like ivory) but plane-Jane stuffed trophies are sold on eBay all the time. (keyword: taxidermy).

Reproduction head mounts for big cats start at a couple thousand dollars.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:34 PM on January 18, 2009

first trip is to the dentist...

But seriously, if you sell it, sell it privately, or if you advertise it, look into endangered species laws first. These days, they would stop 200year-old pianos at borders 'cause of ivory and whatnot, if you can't provide proper documentation. (Okay, that's export. But some things one isn't even allowed to own any more. Authorities tend to be strict these days).

(On preview: probably you'll have to prove that the kill was done post treaties. That's what we had to do with an elderly ivory-plated item.)
posted by Namlit at 2:39 PM on January 18, 2009

pre treaties... Latin...bah
posted by Namlit at 2:53 PM on January 18, 2009

You could donate it to a local high school or junior college that has a tiger as its mascot...

As long as it is not stolen by an arch-rival - it should have a long and happy life staring down throngs of student athletes and absorbing the odor of pine-sol and gym socks....
posted by cinemafiend at 2:54 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

So, lets say we have trouble selling it, and museums don't want it. I like the mascot idea, but I doubt they'd go for it. The ideas so far have been good, but any more suggestions about schools or other public institutions, etc? It's in London at the moment.
posted by omnigut at 3:14 PM on January 18, 2009

You can call your local science museums and such, but they get tons of unsolicited offers of dusty stuff and very likely may not want it.

If your parents want it to be used for good, sell it for as much as you can on eBay and donate the proceeds to their favorite animal charity or educational organization.
posted by desuetude at 3:15 PM on January 18, 2009

or offer it to the Royal Academy of Music for one of their audition rooms
posted by Namlit at 3:19 PM on January 18, 2009

Common Good = sell on eBay + donate proceeds to Wild Tiger Conservation.
posted by mendel at 3:22 PM on January 18, 2009 [5 favorites]

Whatever you do with it...realize that you are in a position to add to the demand of dead tigers. Are you sure you want to do that?
posted by hal_c_on at 3:36 PM on January 18, 2009

Hold up, it's in London? Then talk to these guys.

Their shop in Islington is on my bus route home and it's brightens up my day every time I go past. I think there's a Polar bear in the window at the moment.
posted by Helga-woo at 3:52 PM on January 18, 2009

No, omnigut is in a position to add to the supply of dead tigers without actually killing a tiger. As such, selling it would not be a Bad Thing.
posted by dersins at 3:54 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, and a long time ago, I volunteered at my local county museum (not in London). They had a room in their storage warehouse that was full floor to ceiling of stuffed dead things. The story I was told was that they were donations, from families who couldn't figure out what to do with them. I don't remember a tiger, but there was definitely a dodo and more than one golden eagle and many more exotic animals. The museum couldn't sell them on because of their regulations and they couldn't put them on display because the public doesn't like it. I don't think you'll find a museum that will willing take it.
posted by Helga-woo at 4:04 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Quoted from the E-Bay website:

Animal pelts and skins: Animal parts, including pelts and skins from endangered species (such as leopards, tigers, cheetahs, jaguars, sable antelopes, mountain zebras, and Hartmann mountain zebras) may not be sold in interstate commerce and therefore are not permitted on eBay. Animal pelts and skins from non-endangered species (for example, non-protected species of zebras, coyotes) may generally be listed on eBay, if not in violation of the seller's specific state laws. However, because prohibited by federal law, no sales of any item that contains cat or dog fur will be allowed. Please contact USFWS to file declarations on all non-domesticated animal products. Please note that if the species is not stated in the listing, eBay will use its discretion when determining if the item is from an endangered species.

Other Animal Parts: Endangered or protected species, or any part of any endangered or protected species may not be listed on eBay.


Endangered Species Act: 16 USC 1531-1544 - Generally prohibits the import, export, possession, and sale of species listed as endangered or threatened in interstate or foreign commerce. Includes statutory implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES).
posted by aquafortis at 4:13 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I can't really imagine any "good" (in the sense of protecting present-day animals) being done with it directly. I think the best you are going to do is sell it, to a legitimate collector somewhere (probably via a store or broker who specializes in such things; maybe even an auction house?) and then donate the proceeds to a wildlife-preservation charity.

That is what I would do with it, in your position. I don't think that by selling it you are doing anything (ethically) wrong; it is probably best that people who — for whatever reason — want these things on their walls get them from the pre-ban market, so there is less pressure to obtain them illegally today.

Selling it and donating the proceeds certainly seems better (in terms of preserving remaining tigers) than just burying or cremating it, which would be my alternative solutions.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:36 PM on January 18, 2009

You know what customs does when they find illegal stuff like animal heads, tusks, etc? They burn it.

Selling it only increases the demand for that stuff. Even if you donate the proceeds to a worthy organization, you're still not helping the animals as much as you are hurting them.

Destroy it, bury it, burn it...don't glamorize the death of this animal by displaying it or letting others display it. It will only increase the demand for it, which gives poachers a huge boner.

Good luck. Seriously.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:55 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd call the nearest high-quality zoo and ask them what they think is the best/most helpful thing to do with it, or if they have recommendations regarding who you should talk to about this. They probably get inquiries like this very frequently and will have a standard answer. I.e., ask the experts. They will be operating from the perspective of what's best for the species, and they may also have a clearer answer on how CITES issues would apply to what you do with it.
posted by Herkimer at 6:40 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Some further thoughts on the topic as I've been mulling it over on and off today. I recall that natural history museums have dibs on zoo animal pelts for research or natural history displays of realistic scenes etc. I also recall that zoos often have more tigers offered to them than they can accept: random-bred siberian-bengal crosses with no place in pure species repopulation efforts... cast-offs from the exotic animal pet trade. Your fella is rather more of a sensational portrayal than I'd expect a museum is likely to use, probably more tigersploitational than educational. One of the museums I visited as a child had one display that was a vignette of the manly great white hunter's study, I think they even had a mannikin with a pith helmet and muttonchops*. Anyway the 'room' was tricked out with snarling skin rug, arching elephant tusks framing a doorway, elephant foot umbrella stand, whale oil lamps, heads on the wall and so on. I seem to recall that all the items displayed were things that had been seized by customs. For a display like this a museum might use your guy, i dont know. I do not think he can legally come to the US though. It is interesting to consider that his value may not lie in his ability to represent Nature, so much as he can represent a period in human history and attitude. He is now shocking not because he's a roaring predator, but because he's an unexpected anachronism that most of us don't see very often anymore.

Sorry I don't have any further suggestions. I wonder if there is some sort of period-furnished historical Victorian whatsis that he might fit into?

*I think it was a mannikin. Not entirely certain, considering.
posted by Lou Stuells at 6:43 PM on January 18, 2009

When I worked at a museum, I got lots and lots of unsolicited donation offers, and because of this, I kept a very complete list of other institutions and their collecting areas. So you might find some help by calling a museum's collections department and asking for advice.
posted by miriam at 7:00 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone for your responses, and I've passed the information onto my parents. Frankly, I immediately took to the idea of putting it in the bathroom, and having it scare the...pee out of people. Or making them unable to relax enough to do that.

As for selling it, I think if we were buying it, I'd be adding to the demand for more dead trophies, but selling it might actually reduce the demand, be it only by one. Proceeds to charity, probably.

thanks again,

Omnigut xx
posted by omnigut at 6:37 AM on January 19, 2009

if you do put him in the bathroom (oddly appropriate, tigers loving water!) hopefully it'd be a one without a shower. I can't imagine that steam could do him much good - mildew and so on, ick.
posted by Lou Stuells at 6:58 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Helga-woo: if that museum has a real stuffed dodo in a storeroom then they have something of such amazing value it would probably sell for more money than any painting in the world. Even a skeleton would be very valuable and major museums would beg for it. I'm going to be skeptical and say it was almost certainly a fake, or a different bird, but I'm mainly posting this because there's a tiny chance it is real, and that would be utterly wonderful.
posted by BinaryApe at 3:46 PM on January 19, 2009

Generally prohibits the import, export, possession, and sale of species listed as endangered or threatened in interstate or foreign commerce. Includes statutory implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES).

This is likely a deliberate misreading on eBay's part. CITES prohibits the sale of Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra), for example, and yet there's plenty of pre-ban wood for sale. Pre-ban ivory is sold on the 'Bay, as well.

I have a feeling this is for PR reasons more than legal ones, but regardless, it looks like eBay is out of the picture. Sorry.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:25 PM on January 19, 2009

Also, I'd like to back up what BinaryApe said about the possibility of finding a stuffed Dodo bird--or rather, the impossibility of such a find, with a fascinating video by MetaFilter's own Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame) talking about how he reconstructed his own Dodo skeleton.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:47 PM on January 19, 2009

I remember a dodo, but now I think about it, that does seem a bit unlikely. It was a long time ago. There were definitely very extinct things in the collection though, just maybe not dodos.
posted by Helga-woo at 1:54 PM on January 21, 2009

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