The zoological collection

Prior to color photography, digial media and other information channels, scientific presentation of fauna was based on natural history collections, which were founded in Europe from the beginning of the 19th century up to the 1920ies in substantial numbers. Prestigious representatives of all animal species were represented in the collections. This requirement agreed with the collection concept of former Mission Museum directors who strived to show a comprehensive presentation of then unknown living environments.

Most of the nearly 600 inventory units of the zoological collection were compiled between around 1900 and 1918. Animal preparations and skulls, skins, antlers, reptiles preserved in formalin, tortoise shells, dried marine animals, insect cases and marine shells and gastropods.

Approximately half of the exhibits are on display in one big and two smaller dioramas, in cabinets, on platforms and on the walls; the other specimens are stored in a zoology depository.

The animal preparations are in good condition appropriate for their age; they show the state of the art of taxidermy 100 years ago. Long coarse seams on the throats, stiff poses, uncovered bullet holes, glass eyes not appropriate in color and heavy plaster models beneath the hides. Hairless body parts like a baboon’s nose or the throat pouch of the pelicans were painted or lacquered which gives these specimens a rather artificial appearance. Funny solutions made up for lost body parts; a pike’s head replaces a python’s head, a lions’s head is patched up.


The Diorama at the entrance displays predators (leopards, a cheetah, hyenas etc.) and birds of prey (Martial Eagle, Egyptian vulture, Bateleur, common buzzard).

In the Africa hall, another Diorama shows an arrangement of antelopes, various species of monkeys and other small predators (genets, African palm civets and Egyptian mongoose).

The "Great Diorama" fills a separate room; it was established when the collection moved into the present facilities in 1911 and was preserved in the museum’s restoration. A mural showing an overview over East African landscapes is the background for a three-stage setting of many different animals coming to a watering hole.

Horns and Animal Skulls

On the wall of the staircase leading to the basement antlers of different East African buffalo and antelope species, supplemented by skulls of elephant, hippo and zebra.

Birds, Insects and Reptiles

Down at the landing, an ostrich with eggs stands next to reptiles in a half-open showcase.

The big bird cabinet shows East African nesting birds and European birds that migrate to East Africa. The arrangement is to some degree systematical; on the lower level waders and birds living on the ground. In the center level ibises, owls, ravens, rollers, wading birds, small herons, hornbills and turacos, parrots and songbirds; at the top level birds of prey.

The insectarium on the opposite wall is arranged systematically, including other classes of arthropods such as arachnids and millipedes. The collection contains as well specimens not originating from the St. Ottilien mission fields, e.g. the blue Morpho butterfly, resident in Middle and South America.

Die reptile collection consists mostly of old formalin specimens from different parts of the world, added by dry preparations (e.g. black mamba, puff adder). An alligator head framed by „saws“ of sawfish and a 8m long python skin complete the collection.

The botanical collection

From reports of the missionaries, we know that many botanical specimens were collected. A part of the transport boxes got lost on their way to Germany. However, the greatest losses were due to the high humidity in the museum premises and the depository over several decades. 

From the once large botanical collection only about 50 specimens remain. The museum's permanent exhibition shows several coconuts, seed pods of raffia and cotton, fruits of baobab, kigelia and sponge gourd, and seeds of carob and itching bean (upupu).