These collections are regularly referred by wildlife researchers from various Indian universities like and institutes such as Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun; Zoological Survey of India, Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Coimbatore; Zoo Outreach Organisation, Coimbatore and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore for the scientific studies. This collection is also referred by scientists and taxonomists of various international research institutes such as Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC; Field Museum, Chicago; Natural History Museum, London, U.K.; Harrison Zoological Museum, U.K.; and several other organisation from SAARC countries.
The collections provide basis of identification of hair and feathers for Wildlife Custom Officials, State Forest Departments and Ministry of Defence for their specific purposes. Apart from this the collection is also a good place to confirm your field observation pertaining to the identification and in this regard several individuals, amateur naturalists, ornithologists, lepidopterists, herpetologists and mammalogists refer the Collection.
This is also a very good tool to impart basic knowledge about the faunal diversity to the wider audience. For this purpose students, trainee forest officers (IFS) and forest rangers regularly visit this collection. This department also organises theme based programs like know your birds and mammals and/or the world of amphibians and reptiles for the members of the Society on regular basis.
The collection is also a basis of publication of books like Book of Indian Birds by Salim Ali, Book of Indian Animals by S.H. Prater, The book of Indian Reptiles and Amphibians by J.C. Daniel, Butterflies of Sikkim Himalaya by Meena Haribal, Book of Indian Butterflies by Isaac Kehimkar, Book of Indian Snakes by Whitaker and Captain.
As aptly mentioned these collections are like a biological gold mine, a base for many studies related to biological science and a treasure which has an immense value but not been highlighted. The Systematics is the basis of biological science and natural history collections are the foundation on which the science of systematics is built. As a recent trend, a well-preserved collection is also a tool for molecular studies. In a broader sense this is a treasure trove for researchers from varied fields like ecology, evolution, pollution and climate change.
Publications: The collection formed basis of publication of following books:
- Book of Indian Birds
- Book of Indian Animals
- The book of Indian Reptiles
- Butterflies of Sikkim Himalaya
- Book of Indian snakes
Housing and storage: The collection is housed at the ground and mezzanine floors of the Hornbill House.Mammal and bird collections are stored in the steel cabinet specifically designed for the purpose. Each cabinet can have up to 26 plastic trays in which specimens are kept. The number in each tray depends on the size of the specimens. Some of the mammal skins are stored in the wooden trays and the size of wooden trays or boxes depend on the size of specimens. The insects are stored in wooden cabinets having boxes with glass top. Several specimens are kept in wooden insect boxes, which are stored in wooden and steel cabinets. The insects are arranged as per the order and families. The herpetology collection is kept in glass jars and the specimens are preserved in rectified spirit and arranged as per the present classifications.
Preservation: The preservation used for dry collections are naphthalene balls / powder and creosote. The wet collection is stored in rectified spirit.
Management: The collection is managed by the staff specifically appointed for the purpose and includes Curator, Scientist, Museum Assistants (two) and attendants. The collection requires regular checking, cleaning and updating the data. Identification of specimens brought by scientist and research students is also carried out. Assistance is given to the visiting scientists from India and abroad in referring the collections. The other activities include undertaking survey and taxonomic research on specific groups, undertaking research on endangered species and updating species information on computer. Collection data of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians is catalogued. The work of cataloguing insect data is in progress.
Proposed Work Plan
As mentioned in the introduction the Society has four major sections represented in the collection: Insects, Amphibians & Reptiles, Birds and Mammals. It is proposed to undertake following activities in the Collection Department.
Maintenance of the Collections:
- To properly house and maintain specimens of various collections.
- To control climate of the collection rooms to maintain optimum temperature and humidity.
Collection Data bank:
- The collection data of each specimen will be computerized/digitilised.
- The collection data will be accessible to all researchers and interested groups through network on terms and conditions decided by the Society.
- An infrastructure for this purpose has to be developed.
Taxonomic Research and field work: One impediment to the understanding of many of the lesser known groups of Indian faunal diversity has been a very confusing taxonomy and taxonomists or subject experts. In this regard, taxonomic studies with the aid modern tools like DNA phylogeny will be undertaken. The specimens in the Collections Department will be of immense value for such studies.
Field Research and Surveys: To organize field surveys and research work.
Educational activities: The collection will develop educational modules for the college and school students, corporate members and various organized groups.