August 30, 2012

Isaac the African lion goes Down Under

Isaac, a mounted African lion who spent nearly 30 years in Seattle and was very popular at last year's Meet the Mammals event, has a new home at Museum Victoria in Australia.

Jeff Bradley, mammalogy collection manager at the Burke Museum, took time off from his recent Australian vacation to visit Isaac in his new home.

"Last year, I got a call from Mardi Newman, a local benefit auctioneer, asking if we'd have any use for a mounted African Lion called Isaac," Jeff said. "A friend of hers, Renee Mills, had recently died, and had left quite a collection of African artifacts and specimens, most of which were going to auction.”

Renee, a Redmond-based travel agent, specialized in African safaris and collected Isaac while on safari in 1983 in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. He was the centerpiece of her collection, and a personal favorite, until her death in 2011. Renee's friends and family didn’t want to see Isaac disappear into a private collection and were looking for a museum that could put him on display, or use him for education or research. That's when they turned to the Burke.

Jeff Bradley shows a young Meet the Mammals
visitor the skull of a full-grown lion.
“In terms of research value, we don't have a strong African mammal collection, so researchers who need African mammals don't typically come to the Burke Museum,” said Jeff. If we took him, he would be used very rarely, which wasn't what they were looking for. But I did offer to ask around and see if any other museums could use him.”

Kevin Rowe, Senior Curator of Mammals at Museum Victoria, was the first to reply and very eager to welcome Isaac – especially after learning that Renee had preserved the lion’s skull and information about the location where he had been collected.

"Isaac is a fantastic lion with all the marks of his life in Botswana, and this was too rare an opportunity to pass up,” said Kevin. “We are fortunate at Museum Victoria that we have the capacity to acquire him."

The Burke Museum community was also fortunate to briefly cross paths with this magnificent specimen and to share him with visitors at our annual Meet the Mammals event. As for Jeff? “I'm really happy to have him sent someplace like this and the family feels really happy that he'll be useful down here."

See more images of Isaac in Museum Victoria's blog post.

By Cathy Britt, Digital Communications