Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Taxidermy in his blood

O some, Ben Carrillo’s backyard shed could be considered a mortuary.

It’s filled with the carcasses of mammals, fish and birds.

At times the stench of rotting crustaceans or strong chemicals permeate the surrounding air.

But to Mr Carillo, it is a time capsule of what could be lost.

For about 20 years he has been a taxidermist and sees taxidermy as one way to preserve rare animals and capture their beauty.

“I’m a bird lover and animal lover,” he said.

“I don’t want to see nice animals going to waste – that’s probably the biggest attraction to it.”

His obsession with taxidermy began when he was breeding budgies in his early twenties.

He wanted to preserve his rare crested budgie and decided to mount it himself after discovering the price to get it done professionally.

Mr Carrillo said the budgie ultimately looked more like a giraffe than a bird, but he was not disheartened.

He has since specialised in mounting fish and birds but will mount “just about anything.”

“I’ve seen it all. I’ve done a camel, I’ve done a monkey, I’ve done all types of things that you can think of,” he said.

His clientele includes hunters, pet owners and museums.

“There’s not really too much that I find strange because I’ve had people bring around their pet rats and they have little costumes with them.”

But Mr Carrillo also said taxidermy played an important role in preserving the memory of endangered or extinct wildlife.

“There are species lost every week,” he said.

“This is the only way we’re going to be able to see them.”

He said that it also provided a way for pet owners to hold on to their beloved animals.

Mr Carrillo said the taxidermy industry was cut-throat and the future was not looking good for what he called a “very secretive business”.

He said five Victorian taxidermists retired last year and with no courses in Melbourne, the business relied solely on mentorship.

“I’m probably the youngest taxidermist out there at the moment, and I’m 43 years old. Now everyone is getting older in this game and there aren’t many newcomers,” he said.

He said that not many taxidermists would take on apprentices for fear of them stealing clients.

“You’ll see a couple of newcomers in the Yellow Pages and then they’ll be gone.”

Mr Carrillo said with little money to be made, his venture into the industry came from love.

“Honestly, once taxidermy is in your blood you can’t get away from it,” he said.

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