On the Provenance of the two large Gharials in the Display Collection of the Natural History Museum Vienna
While exhibits in natural history museums have great value as display and teaching objects, they can also have a provenance that is fascinating and enlightening. One such example is the two, large gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) hides exhibited in the Natural History Museum Vienna. They were purchased in 1902 by Franz Steindachner, the then Intendant (Director), and impress with their enormous size of 453 cm and 543 cm, respectively. Although they have been in the museum’s collections for 120 years, until recently very little was known about the origin of the two crocodiles and how they originally came to Vienna. During our provenance research, we were able to reconstruct considerable aspects of the path of the two unique specimens from South Asia via the famous animal trader Carl Hagenbeck and the Umlauff family business in Hamburg, Germany, to the Austrian capital. In addition, other large gharial specimens in European natural history museums from Umlauff are discussed and illustrated herein.