Endangered species in China (2)

15:30, June 24, 2010      

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He is proud of his ancestors' accomplishments. The oldest specimen in the museum - a grendelkhan, a sort of pigeon - was the work of his great grandfather. The only sample of grus antigone, a kind of crane with crimson skin from head to neck, which is not listed by the International Crane Foundation, a worldwide conservation organization based in Wisconsin in the United States, was collected by his father in southwestern Yunnan province in 1962. Many of the specimens created by the first and second generations of the "Specimen Tangs" are preserved in prestigious foreign museums, like the Natural History Museum in Britain.

The history of the "Specimen Tang" family stretches back to the 1890s.

Family pioneer Tang Chunying, Tang Zhaozi's great grandfather, had a gift for hunting beautiful small birds and sold elaborate quills for money.

Astounded by the elaborate quills made from the feathers of an egret, La Touche, the British Customs officer in Fuzhou of Fujian province and an animal lover, invited Tang Chunying to go on field trips together. La Touche then introduced taxidermy to Tang Chunying and five of his six sons as a means of preserving the specimens they collected.

As a way of saying thanks to the Tangs for their assistance, a black-white photo of the first and second generations of the "Specimen Tang" family was included on the flyleaf of Handbook of Birds of Eastern China authored by La Touche and published in 1931. The contents of the book are based on samples collected in eight provinces including Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu, Anhui, Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Guangdong by the Tangs.

The "Specimen Tang" family reached its peak in prosperity in the 1960s when the family dominated the field. They founded several animal specimen museums in preeminent universities, including Peking, Fudan and Sun Yat-sen universities. And they were the natural choice for natural and science museums or academic institutes across the country looking for a taxidermist.

Tang Zhaozi remembers the hunting activities for uncollected breeds which the family used to enjoy and which were more like extended family outings, but such gatherings ended in 1988, when Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Wildlife was issued. "The law is absolutely meaningful," says Tang Zhaozi.
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