MV Blog


Isaac the African Lion

by Kate C
Publish date
24 August 2012
Comments (3)

Lion head Isaac the African Lion.
Source: Museum Victoria

We've just acquired a magnificent male African Lion specimen thanks to the generosity of his former owners, an international museum network and a rapid response by our curator of mammals. Jeff Bradley, Mammalogy Collection Manager at the Burke Museum in Seattle, Washington, was at Melbourne Museum today to tell the story of Isaac the lion.

"Last year I got a call from a woman asking if we'd have any use for a mounted African Lion called Isaac. A friend of hers, Renee Mills, had recently died, and had left quite a collection of African artefacts and specimens, most of which were going to auction. Renee had collected him on safari in 1983 in the Okavango Delta in Botswana and he was a bit of a mascot at her travel agency. She specialised in African safaris so he was the centrepiece of her office and everyone's favourite.

Her friends and family just couldn't stand the thought of Isaac disappearing into a private collection. They were trying to find a museum that could put him on display, or use him for education or research. I told her that at the Burke we have no schedule to display any of our taxidermy. 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. 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.

When I got the photos and learned that they also had his skull and information about where he was collected, I sent an email out. Kevin Rowe at Museum Victoria was the first to reply and yesterday he finally arrived. To have a specimen like this gather dust and decay would be a crime, and I'm really happy to have him sent someplace like this and the family feels really happy that he'll be useful down here."

Group of people with lion specimen Curators and collection managers with Isaac the lion. L-R: Jeff Bradley of the Burke Museum, MV's Kevin Rowe, Karen Rowe and Karen Roberts.
Source: Museum Victoria

For a thirty-year-old specimen, Isaac is in extremely good condition and he will be a valuable addition to our Mammalogy Collection, especially since he is accompanied by his skull and locality data.

Lion skull Isaac's skull. It is very rare that private collectors would retain any parts of the skeleton, which is one reason why this specimen has particular scientific value.
Source: Museum Victoria

detail of scar on lion Isaac is covered in scars from altercations with other lions, including this big mark on his shoulder.
Source: Museum Victoria

Says Senior Curator of Mammals Kevin Rowe, "Isaac is a fantastic lion with all the marks of his life in Botswana, and this was too rare an opportunity to pass up. We are fortunate at Museum Victoria that we have the capacity to acquire him. Working with Jeff has been a pleasure and it has only strengthened our relationship with the Burke Museum in Seattle."


Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington

MV Blog: So many specimens

About this blog

Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.