This tiger is one of 39 tigers shot by King George V in 1911. Sir Chaning Wills (a museum benefactor and chairman of the Museum and fine Art Committee) gave £300 to have the tiger’s skin mounted and cased. this sum also paid for alterations to enlarge the gallery and install electric lighting. The famous London firm Rowland Ward prepared the taxidermy.
The new specimen was unveiled by Lady Wills at a very well attended ceremony on 18 February 1914. Newspaper reports say that she ‘pulled a blue ribbon and the Union Jack which draped the case fell to the ground’. A different paper reports that two flags were used- the White Ensign and St George Cross. Nearby the museum displayed for a month photograph’s of the King’s hunting expedition.
Mr W Kendall King (the mayor) wrote to Buckingham palace to thank the King for his generous donation and sent a photograph of the display and a copy of the newspaper coverage. The King’s secretary replied to say the King was very pleased with the way it had been displayed and mounted.
The King presented four of the 39 tiger skins to national museums - London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Dublin and four to provincial museums - Exeter, Norwich, Leicester and Bristol. For RAMM to have been among these eight museums was certainly a great honour. The newspaper article notes that ‘the general gratification is further enhanced by the fact the city has been very fortunate in getting one of the best skins which is larger than two of the others.’
Today this iconic species is struggling to survive in the wild. Numbers have dropped by more than 95% in the past 120 years - only around 4,000 remain. Several subspecies are extinct or critically endangered. Habitat loss and the illegal trade in wildlife are significant contributors to their demise. Trophy hunting expeditions, such as King George’s, are illegal today.