Gerald the giraffe is one of RAMM's most iconic specimens and would have been an outstanding animal when alive. This adult male giraffe has been an extremely popular exhibit at the Museum since 1920. In 1901 he encountered big game hunter Charles Victor Alexander Peel at Moshi, Tanzania, close to the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro in what were German Territories. This encounter was to elevate him to iconic status far from his birthplace.
Of giraffes Peel notes that 'Their skins are immensely thick and heavy, and in consequence they are very difficult to dry, cure and carry'. He found that they could be closely approached in thick bush as they were 'continually looking over and beyond one'.
Gerald was skinned, dried and cured on site. Judging from how sections of the skin have been sewn together he was cut into manageable portions for the porters to carry. There was a newly built railway from Mombassa which terminated at Moshi. This was a German built line conceived as a rival to the British railway from Mombassa to Lake Victoria. From Mombassa the skin was shipped as freight to London where it was mounted by the famous taxidermy firm, Rowland Ward Ltd.
Gerald was previously known as George, as an affectionate tribute to King George V. However, he was renamed Gerald by a former museum director who was not so fond of the Royal Family. Gerald is one of the few specimens that remained at RAMM during the redevelopment, spending many months in a crate, before being moved out of the window on Upper Paul Street and then being craned into the museum through the roof from Northernhay Gardens.
In 2013 we measured him using a laser - hooves to horns (known as ossicones) he is 5.05m and hooves to the top of his head he is 4.94m tall. Gerald was previously identified as Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi but a DNA study published in September 2016 has established that giraffes now belong to four distinct species rather than one with many subspecies. Gerald’s new scientific name is Giraffa tippelskirchi.
This object is on display at RAMM in the Case Histories gallery.