Akeley Hall of African Mammals
The Akeley Hall of African Mammals showcases large mammals of Africa. At the center is a freestanding group of eight elephants, poised as if to charge, surrounded by 28 habitat dioramas. These provide a unique glimpse of the diverse topography of Africa and its wildlife, from the Serengeti Plain to the waters of the Upper Nile to the volcanic mountains of what was once the Belgian Congo.
As in all of the Museum’s habitat dioramas, each scene is a re-creation based on the meticulous observations of scientists in the field in the early 20th century and the on-site sketches and photographs of the artists who accompanied them. They feature animals set in a specific location, cast in the light of a particular time of day.
In some instances, represented locales became national parks or wildlife sanctuaries. For example, Carl Akeley—the naturalist, explorer, photographer, sculptor, and taxidermist who first conceived of this hall in 1909 and collected many of the specimens for it—successfully petitioned the King of Belgium to create the first national park in Africa.
The African elephant is the largest living land mammal. Both male and female African elephants have ivory tusks.
Considered the most social of cats, lions live in prides that consist of one or more males, several females, and cubs. While a male lion consumes an average of 5,500 pounds of meat a year—mostly wildebeest, zebra, and antelopes—females do most of the actual hunting.
As a hunter, Theodore Roosevelt was concerned about the wanton destruction of animals in the wild. "More and more, as it becomes necessary to preserve the game," he wrote, "let us hope that the camera will largely supplant the rifle."
Rhinoceros means "horn-nosed." For millions of years, black rhinos have used their magnificent horns for protection against lions and other predators, as weapons in territorial disputes with other rhinos, and as tools to dig for mineral salt.
Gorillas may weigh as much as 450 pounds, and large males may measure nearly 6 feet tall when standing. Gorillas have never been observed drinking in the wild. They spend the day feeding on leaves, bark, stems, and fruit, getting the water they need from their moist food.
As the world's largest bird (ostriches can stand up to 8 feet tall and weigh 340 pounds), the ostrich is also one of the most adaptable. The ostrich lives in a variety of environments in southwest Africa and has developed a complex social structure while having shed the ability to fly.
A favorite among Museum visitors, the Water Hole diorama teems with wildlife in search of water in the Guaso Nyiro River Valley in Kenya. Spot the giraffes, Grévy's zebra, Beisa oryx, Grant's gazelle, the olive baboon, and herds of elephants.