Video: How they reclaimed Leeds’ shabby tiger from the moths

The 170 year old 'Leeds' Bengal Tiger is returned to the City Museum. Picture by Simon Hulme
The 170 year old 'Leeds' Bengal Tiger is returned to the City Museum. Picture by Simon Hulme
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FOR generations, they have enthralled visitors to one of Yorkshire’s most popular museums.

But stuffed animals – including the famous Leeds Tiger – had to be placed in a deep freeze after the discovery of a moth infestation in display cases.

After the emergency move, the animals were taken back to Leeds City Museum yesterday after being thawed out from the deep freeze to preserve them.

The 170-year-old tiger was among a number of exhibits in the museum’s Life on Earth Gallery to be attacked by the bugs. During a routine inspection, the museum team discovered larvae of the Webbing Clothes Moth, an insect which feeds on natural fibres including fur and feathers, in some of their taxidermy cases.

As a precaution, animals from the extensive collection, including butterflies, bats and a giant anteater, were then placed in a special deep freeze which destroyed the moths and eggs so they could be physically removed.

Leeds Museums and Galleries’ curator of natural sciences, Rebecca Machin, said it was part of a specialist conservation programme designed to protect the historic exhibits from potential damage by common pests.

She added: “These incredible specimens come from all over the world and are some of our most popular and historic exhibits, so we take plenty of precautions to prevent any pests from damaging them.

“Unfortunately, something will very occasionally slip through all our deterrents so to be safe, we removed a variety of animals, including our famous Leeds Tiger, to the quarantine facility at Leeds Discovery Centre.”

She admitted that the sight of taking the animals from the museum caught the attention of passers-by in the city’s streets.

She added: “The sight of us taking these colourful, exotic creatures to and from the museum turned quite a few heads to say the least and people were really keen to hear about what we doing.

“I’m sure everyone will be just as excited to see us bringing them home and we’re looking forward to seeing them back on display where they belong.”

The Leeds Tiger was shot near Dehradun in the Himalayas by decorated soldier Major-General Sir Charles Reid in 1846. It is believed that the tiger was becoming a threat to people living in a nearby village.

In 1862, it was purchased by wealthy Leeds industrialist William Gott and presented to members of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society.

Once it was mounted, the tiger was said to be “unequalled in Europe” with reports at the time saying it was “fitly placed in the centre of the large zoological room and is always the most attractive piece in that collection”.

Also accompanying the tiger on its trip to the Discovery Centre were a black-headed oriole, a huia, which is now extinct, and a yellow-capped manakin as well as an otter and a grey seal.

Leeds City Council’s lead member for museums and galleries, Coun Brian Selby, said: “These incredible animal specimens have hundreds of years of natural history behind them and it’s fascinating to see the painstaking work that goes in to keeping them so well preserved.

“The Leeds Tiger in particular is one of our most iconic exhibits which has been enjoyed by generations of local museum-goers and I’m sure the people of Leeds will be very happy to see him back home.”