Dressed in wedding gowns and bikinis – their eyes fixed, jaws stiffened and bodies frozen in time – you might be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled on to a taxidermist fancy dress convention.
However, these furry corpses formed part of a display at a school in New Zealand which held a bizarre best-dressed dead possum competition as part of a fundraising day.
Children let their imaginations run wild when they dressed the dead animals in all their finery for the contest at Uruti School on New Zealand’s North Island.
He could have been a contender: Some might say rigor mortis has helped this entrant strike a pose in the boxing ring. Meanwhile, death imitates art with this entry
One dressed as a boxer had its torso skinned, and one might wonder whether rigor mortis could have helped the animal keep its fighting pose in the ring.
Others were fitted out in baby grows while another worked the Van Gogh look, dressed as a painter complete with smock and easel.
Another was dressed head to toe in pink and elaborate jewels. But the entrant clearly thought something was missing – so they added a pair of stick-on eyes plastered over the animal’s real peepers.
The gruesome exhibition is a far cry from the traditional school fundraising efforts of jumble sales and cake baking.
The school has been criticised for encouraging children to dress up dead animals for the day, which also featured a wild pig hunt.
It has sparked horror with animal welfare groups but teachers defended the contest as ‘lots of fun’ which helped raise more than £4,000 for the school.
Principal Pauline Sutton told the Taranaki Daily News: ‘There was an amazing crowd and it was lots of fun. Animals aren’t the only species who are dressed up after they die. We do it to humans too.’
However, the event was labelled unacceptable and tasteless by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Spokeswoman, Jackie Poles-Smith told the Independent: ‘Animals deserve respect, whether they’re wild, domestic or pets. We encourage empathy [for] all animals, even when they’re dead, and it’s a shame that a school is encouraging its children to do this.’
The possum is an introduced species in New Zealand that wreaks havoc with the native wildlife. This includes threatening the kiwi bird which, along with the fern frond, is a national symbol of the country.
While brush-tailed possums are protected in their native Australia, the species is a pest in New Zealand. Hunting and killing them has become something of a national sport.
Life’s a beach: This entry, left, shows a possum posing in a bikini with a bottle of sun screen close at hand while, right, it is unclear precisely what kind of look this entrant was going for with a black dress, pink wig, stick-on eyes… and painted pink claws
Kiwi taxidermist Gets Creative with RoadkillBy DAILY MAIL REPORTER
During the day, Andrew Lancaster is a mild-mannered marina caretaker, a British ex-pat living happily in New Zealand. It’s only when he begins to think about his hobby that things start getting weird.That’s because, in his spare time, the 57-year-old likes to dismember and reassemble the bodies of dead animals to create nightmarish chimera-like creatures.It sounds gruesome, and it is, but self-trained taxidermist Mr Lancaster seems unperturbed by the notion that people may think he’s funny in the head.
Mr Lancaster insists that all the animals he re-arranges are already dead when he gets his hands on them, and that he would never intentionally kill an animal for his art.
For example, the goldfish used in a piece with a blackbird’s head literally jumped out of the pond in Mr Lancaster’s garden and promptly presented itself as raw material – according to Mr Lancaster.
Taxidermy is not for everyone, and Mr Lancaster is pretty matter-of-fact when it comes to his methods of preparation. He says he leaves the carcasses on top of his boiler to dry, and then places them in the freezer ‘under the ice cream and vegetables’.
He makes his own body moulds – the inside structure that gives the lifeless bodies their shape – out of straw, cotton and wire.
He said: ‘You make an incision from the bottom of the chest, down between the legs and you have to literally just turn it inside out… then when you put it back together it goes the other way.
‘You have to get it right to look like the body that came out. I guess it’s just like putting a rag doll together.’
Perhaps unsurprisingly, his wife doesn’t allow him to hang on to his creations. A little more surprisingly, however, he has managed to sell his works online and his Facebook site Andrew Lancaster Taxidermy Creations has 241 members.