Thiruvananthapuram Natural history Museum is a scientific institution with an exhaustive collections of current and historical specimens of animals, plants, geology, paleontology, and more. The museum possess an excellent galleries to share the amazing wonders of the natural world with the public.
Established in 1964, it has one of the most exhaustive collections among the Natural History Museums in the country. After the modernization works in the museum an excellent attempt is made to depict the different kinds of wild animals in their natural habitat. The panoramas so created signify the present day relevance of in-situ conservation of wildlife and their habitats. The display provides exhaustive information, facts and figures concerning the whole of animal kingdom from the tiny creatures such as ants and termites to that of the largest whale.
Besides the exhibit collections, the museum also maintains cabinet animal collection especially for students of zoology and other biological sciences to explore any information they need. The ‘H S Ferguson Repository’ is named after the Scottish zoologist who worked in the south Indian princely state of Travancore, and contributed a lot to the museum. The repository currently holds avian and herpetological specimens. One gets dismayed with the exhaustive collection of variety of avifauna which provides unparalleled ornithological study and research opportunities. A good display of birds collected by the famous Ornithologist Dr.Salim Ali during his study on Birds of Travancore is very interesting for Ornithologist’s and Naturalists.
Out door Exhibit
As the life in the earth rose years and years after the formation of earth, the Natural History Museum Display too begin with a geological rock specimen. The 20 million years old petrified wood fossils displayed near the entrance of this Museum is a major attraction.
The entrance gallery of the museum adorned by the traditional wooden panelling work, accommodates an imposing life size model of toothed whale on the left and two stuffed rhinos on the right. The Rhinos are the star attraction of the museum and are well set on a Kazhiranga model diorama.
Articulated skeletons of fully grown Elephant, Guar, Sambar Deer, Malayan Tapir, Indian Wild Ass, Ostrich, Emu etc. are exhibited in a small hall adjoining the birds’ gallery. The outstanding exhibit here is the gigantic bones of the lower jaw of the Indian fin whale. A few skeletons of apes and man are displayed to show the similarity in the skeletal structure. A complete made to scale human skeleton in ivory is of great interest to the public.
The spacious birds gallery displays a fairly exhaustive collection of birds of this region in a series of 15 large sized display cases. The display consists of systematic-cum-dioramic cases of birds from all parts of the State arranged according to families. The first three cases contain the perching birds. The Finches, Baya, Tailor birds, Sunbirds, Munias, Mynas, Drongo, Orioles, Swallows, Shrikes, Larks, Pitta and Common House Crow are some of the interesting birds of this group. Horn bills are exhibited independently in a show case adjoining the Wood Peckers, Hoopoe and Barbets. The Terns and Gulls of our collection form a habitat group. They are very expertly set up with adequate background. Different varieties of Night jars, Swifts and Kingfishers are displayed in a separate case. Different species of Owls, Cuckoos, Doves and Parakeets form the notable exhibits in the next two cases. Next group consist of shore birds such as Snipe, Oyster Catchers, Wood Cock, Sociable lap wing, Kentish Plover, gulls, Terns etc., arranged in two adjacent cases. The birds of prey are exhibited in one of the corner cases. This group includes the Eagles, Kites, Hawks, Shikra, Ospreys etc. Marsh birds are exhibited in a semi-habitat diorama and there are Grey Jungle Fowl, Red Spur Fowl, Florican, Moorhen, Quail, Bustard, Crake, Rail etc. One habitat case is set apart for the display of birds usually seen in and around Trivandrum. They comprise the Jungle Crow, Heron, Grebe, Egret, Oriole and Sun bird. A few cases have been allotted for the wading and swimming birds found in the state. They include Frigate bird, Boobies, Pelicans, Cormorants and Darters, Heron, Storks, ibises, Spoon bills and Bitterns.
Extinct Species Gallery
The Museum’s Extinct species gallery offers an amazing experience of the pre-historic world. Here one will get amused with the beauty and massiveness of the life wiped out from our planet. Besides this, representatives of recent extinctions are also included to instill in one the thought for the Bio-diversity conservation and sustainable living practices. One can explore the different time periods dinosaurs lived, why they died out and various other facts related by browsing the touchscreen kiosk.
This gallery of the museum is well set with displaying the varied species according to their zoogeographic presence. The collections from Asia, Africa and South American continent are well set on the diaromas suited for the species behaviour and occurrences. This makes the exhibits more appealing and educative for the visitors. These presentation which are life-like give vivid picture of the habitats together with their surroundings in natural set up.
The museum also possess ethnological models illustrating the different art forms, model of typical Kshatriya lady and a Devadsai girl in characteristic costume and jewellery. The joint family system in a matriarchal family is illustrated by the model of a Nair house. Yet another show case with several miniature models shows the various costumes and jewellery worn by the women folk in the different states of India.
Gallery for assorted collection of Vertebrates and Invertebrates
Vertebrate Section: Examples of fishes with different body forms and colour are shown in the fish gallery. The most conspicuous among them is the cast of a Whale Shark. Sharks, skates and rays having cartilaginous skeletons and different varieties of bony fishes are represented here. Different types of amphibians like salamanders, frogs and toads are represented here as wet preserved specimens. Reptiles like lizards, snakes and tortoises are represented in various forms of collections. There is a separate case displaying the poisonous and non poisonous snakes. One of the main attractions among the gallery is the plaster cast of a big Estuarine crocodile and a specimen caught alive from a canal near Thripunithura in 1904 and sent as a gift to Museum by the Maharaja of Cochin.
Invertebrate Section: Invertebrate specimens are represented mainly with the help of glass models cast and dried exoskeleton. Microscopic Protozoans are represented here in magnified glass models. Species of Euplectella, Ephydatia, Galeodes etc are the examples exhibited. Coelenterates belonging to group of Hydrozoa, Scyphozoa and Anthozoa are also represented mostly in glass and hard skeletal structures. Species of Physalia, Aurelia, Madrepara, Fungia are the examples exhibited. The Annelids are represented by various marine segmented worms and leeches. Among the group of Platyhelminthes exhibited, life histories of some of the parasitic type are very interesting. Different classes of Arthropods like Crustacea, Millipedes and Archnida and insect are represented. The next important group of invertebrate animals are the mollusk, the representatives are illustrated by models as well as by the shell made of lime. Specimens of Sea hare and Sea slug together with their anatomy is noteworthy. For Echinodermata, species of Star fish, Sea-urchins, Brittle stars, Sea lilies and Sea cucumbers are exhibited as examples. The stages of development of feather star are illustrated by models.
The polished lime stone table top having embedded skeletal remains of countless marine organisms also forms the major attraction.
This is very interesting and educative index collections have been arranged on the pattern of the British Museum of Natural History at South Kenisington. The first case displays miniature model of pre-historic animals, a human form shown with each model for the relative size comparison. Duck billed Platypus, Armadillos and Indian Pangolin are some of the examples of rare and interesting animals that had been living in the Zoo are also exhibited. Modification of fur, skeletal parts of selected mammals are exhibited here. A few examples of primitive classes are exhibited in detail for various aspects like – comprehensive study of skeleton, dentition, integument etc. The 14 feet skeleton of King Cobra is noteworthy.
Geological & Economic Botany Gallery
This newly commissioned gallery includes the rock and mineral collections from various parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Economic botany gallery includes a changing display of Indian Economic produces.
H S Ferguson Repository
Collections for ornithological studies: Natural History Museum, Thiruvananthapuram has a large collection of preserved bird skins which forms an important resource for Taxonomical studies. This is probably one of the most important and largest collections other than BNHS and ZSI collections in India. The original collections of birds specimens was done during the late 19th and early 20th century by the British ornithologist William R Davidson, H.S Ferguson, T.F Bourdillon, Jhon Stewart, Salim Ali, N.G Pillai etc. a major part of the collections are from Kerala, there are also collections from Kolkata, Sikkim and copah Malayan peninsula. A total of 2,225 cabinet specimens are there in collection.
Catalogue: Bird specimens are kept systematically in Museum Repository room so that they can be used for study of the avian fauna. The data held on a specimen usually include information on species, collecting date, name of the collector, sex and approximate locality. A computer system loaded with the catalogue and photographs of the specimen are made available. Researchers are advised to make use of the facility first and accessing the actual specimens is allowed only if it is absolutely necessary.