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.
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.
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.