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Leopards, tigers and owls, oh my!

Most teenagers save up to buy the latest iPhone, but a rather unusual teenager at SDC is saving up to buy a tiger.

Yes, you did read it right. A girl called Sydney in Year 11 is saving up to buy an antique Bengali tiger rug.

Since the age of eight the 16-year-old from Conwy, has had a passion for taxidermy and is already making quite a name for herself in what is very much a male dominated world.

A certain antiques supremo called Drew Pritchard, whose TV antiques show called Salvage Hunters is shown across the globe, happens to be a neighbour and he has encouraged her interest and talent putting her in touch with taxidermy experts in the UK and has even had her working at his shop in Conwy.

“Drew has been very supportive and given me some advice,” said Sydney.

“My interest started when I wanted to be a palaeontologist when I was a lot younger, I was totally obsessed with dinosaurs.”

She continued: “I’ve always been intrigued about animals, and when I was about six I remember seeing a dead hedgehog and I just being really curious and studying him close up.”

When she was eight, Sydney saved up to buy a taxidermy fox, and for her 13thbirthday her parents paid for her to go to a taxidermy workshop to learn how to stuff a Jay.

“I’m just fascinated by the process, I think it’s an art and it takes great skill to learn to do it properly and to make that animal seem lifelike,” she explained.

“It preserves that animal in some way.”

Sydney has since gone on to taxidermy crows, badgers, foxes, seagulls, stoats, weasels and perhaps her greatest achievement to date- a very lifelike Eagle Owl-that stands proudly on his perch in her bedroom.

“It is a messy business,” she concedes with a wry smile.

“In the summer I have to work in the garden shed but my parents let me work in the utility room in the winter.”

“Badgers and foxes can be very smelly to work with, and the former can also be fatty and I’m not so keen on intestines and the bowels, but I just have to get on with it.”

“I am very patient to stuff a crow is takes me around 10 hours, but sometimes if things aren’t going well I do get very frustrated and it can end in tears.”

Sydney does sell her work, charging around £80 for a crow, the eagle owl is worth over £800 but she says it’s not for sale.

She recently bought a tiger skin from an antiques shop in Rhos on Sea, that had been shot in 1880 in India.

She explained: “I have since sold it on after restoring it, and I’m now saving up to buy a leopard skin made by Van Ingen. They were one of the biggest and best taxidermy firms.

“My aim is to buy a tiger made by them, but they can cost anything between £5,000 to £10,000.”

“They are vintage rugs complete with the head and claws. I just think they are stunning, but I would never condone killing animals just for taxidermy, the animals I work with died of natural causes or are road-kill.

“When I’m working with protected species like a red squirrel or Eagle owl, I have to have official documents that prove they have not been killed for the purpose of taxidermy.”

Sydney has officially become a member of the Guild of Taxidermists, and attends conferences mixing with other experts in the art.

“They are mostly old men but have been very encouraging with me and offered me advice when I have needed it,” she said.

“As for my school friends nobody bats an eyelid, and I’m even submitting some of my work towards my art GCSE exam Mr Scarff my art teacher, says over his 25 years of teaching he has never seen anything like it before .”


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