Wednesday, 5 December 2012



As we had some time to kill while in Medan (North Sumatra), our guide suggested to view some "animal specimens", something that might interest my 10-year-old son. So we were brought to the Rahmat International Wildlife Gallery, not far from Medan's Polonia International Airport. Ticket prices to this natural history museum were reasonable - Rp 25,000 for adults and Rp.20,000 for children, and so we agreed. The gallery is located within a three-story building which might have been mistaken for a shophouse cum blood donation centre if not for the images of wildlife on its exterior.

Unlike many natural history museums with exhibits sequestered behind glass, the displays here are open and in the form of dioramas, a number with rather dramatic scenarios. The exhibits on wild cats are particularly lifelike, ferocious tigers with snarling bared teeth, lions taking out their prey and the like. Photography is permitted, hence the number of photos in this post. 

The tiger display is the gallery's pride and joy, not least because the Sumatran tiger, an endangered species, is iconic of this Indonesian island.
The Wildlife Gallery is the brainchild of Sumatran business tycoon Rahmat Shah, who owns a zoo in the town of Siantar and is also known to be a big game hunter. Although the gallery asserts that its specimens were obtained by controlled hunting and humane means, one finds it difficult to reconcile being an animal lover and a person who hunts down animals for the pleasure of the game. The many awards and trophies of hunting achievement also displayed in the gallery confirm that Rahmat really enjoys his sport.

This display - a wildcat pawing a flying bird - looks familiar because it also appears in one scene in Sacha Baron Cohen's latest movie The Dictator. It appears that Admiral General Aladeen has similar tastes as Rahmat Shah.

Animal Planet: predatory behaviour on display. The greatest predator of them all, however, is human.

It is quite apparent that this gallery is not just about animals. Its more about the owner himself, as testified by his African Big Game Grand Slam Award, an obvious source of pride, for having killed at least one defenceless lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo each. Also to be found in the gallery are multiple photos of him with beauty pageant queens (his daughter Raline is herself a former Miss North Sumatra), and football memorabilia - autographed soccer jerseys and photos. Well done, Rahmat, you deserve a place as one of the world's greatest and most inveterate collectors! 

A small point in biology is in order here. A koala is a marsupial and does not belong among the grizzly, brown, black and polar bears.

1 comment:

Kathryn Bateman said...

Clearly written - I am in agreement and still do not understand the hunter/conservationist idea. I felt it a shame that as this is reportedly an accepted way of conserving wildlife, there w no detailed information / explanation in English. I would like to understand.