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There's something about these two very different beasts: The enigmatic elephant with its swaying trunk and flapping ears atop those giant lumbering legs. And the endangered gharial with its cracked skin, eyes popping as it floats in the murky waters with its brood. Both fitting subjects, captured beautifully in unique portraits by this year's two grand title winning Wildlife Photographers of the Year. These images will take pride of place in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 exhibition opening here at the Museum this Friday, 18 October.



Essence of elephants portraying a herd gathered at a waterhole in Botswana’s Northern Tuli Game Reserve, has made Greg du Toit the 2013 Wildlife Photographer of the Year. To depict these gentle giants in this ghostly way, Greg used a slow shutter speed and wide-angle lens tilted up.


The two coveted prizes for the 2013 competition were awarded to Greg du Toit and 14-year-old Udayan Rao Pawar earlier this evening, 15 October, at the glittering awards ceremony held here at the Natural History Museum. The two winning images swayed the judges and beat nearly 43,000 other entries from 96 countries.



Mother's little headful snapped by 14-year-old Udayan Rao Pawar depicts a mother gharial crocodilian crowned by her babies in the waters of India's threatened Chambal River. Competition judge Tui De Roy described the image as wonderfully playful and thought-provoking and the deserving 2013 Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year.


Both winning photographers are pictured below. They were among several other photographers and competition judges who gathered last night in readiness for the awards ceremony where the winners were announced.


Greg-Du Toit-self-portrait.jpgUdayan-Rao Pawar-self-portrait.jpg

On location: Greg du Toit and Udayan Rao Pawar - this year's grand title winners.


'It was amazing and almost emotional to see young Udayan meet his hero, acclaimed wildlife photographer and competition judge Steve Winter,' says Gemma Ward, competition manager.


'I'm staggered by the standard of photography from the youngsters and how seriously they take their interest and how much nature and the camera means to them.


'And I'm also really impressed by the winner of the Eric Hosking Portfolio Award this year. This award highlights a sequence of images from a budding photographer between the ages of 18 and 26 years. It's an exceptionally strong portfolio of pictures and subjects from Canada's Connor Stefanison, with each one a stand-out.'


Enjoy all 100 prize-winning photographs from the 18 award categories in the 2013 competition and find out more about the stories and people behind them in the 2013 gallery.


Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Book tickets for the exhibition opening on 18 October


Season's greetings! As is tradition, here I am again at the last minute with my top ten Museum gifts for this year. There are still a couple of days before last orders for guaranteed Christmas Day delivery (that's on 18 December for most products heading to UK mainland addresses, 16 December for unframed prints).


So, if like me you’re nowhere near prepared for Christmas, rest assured that you’re not alone, and hopefully my favourite festive gifts can provide a glimmer of inspiration. Here goes:


10. Cuddly roaring T.rex


It may not be our most accurate dinosaur toy (our models are approved for accuracy by our own palaeontologists). But, its huge feet, soft fur and novelty roar make it perfect for your prehistoric toy menagerie. No good playroom is complete without one. Lots of adults buy them too – apparently we’re all big softies at heart.


Give it a cuddle



9. Art of Audubon prints


Before we reproduced one of our own copies of the most valuable book ever (Audubon's The Birds of America fetched $7.9m at auction), it was very hard to come by a decent quality print of the amazing illustrations from Audubon’s masterpiece. Now, for a fraction of the auction price, you can own 16 reproduction prints from the book. Sorry, I mean give them away as a gift, of course…


Snap them up in our shop



8. Elephant poo-in-a-box


How could I not address the elephant in the room? It’s the controversial present that your secret Santa recipient will never forget. Elephants living in UK zoos and safari parks kindly donate their (odourless) poo for this product. And, though proceeds help support elephant conservation - I’m sure the elephants won’t be offended if the product isn’t for you – after all, they have a thick skin.


All poo gifts



7. Human skull mug


What’s not to love? With a touch of goth chic, an artsy design and using an illustration from the Museum’s own natural history art collections, this mug is special. And, there’s more where that came from – watch out for other cool gifts that take inspiration from the Museum's vast collections. It's a gift that could either be received with delight, or a mild sense of foreboding -  truly versatile.


Buy the mug


6. Dinosaur colouring book


Scientists are only just beginning to work out the colour of dinosaurs. Before they make any more progress, take advantage and daub the dinos in the hue of your choice, in our fun new colouring book. All facts within have been approved by our palaeontologists. Just add paint…


Read all about it





5. Shoal of fish tea tray


Watch the facial expressions on your coffee morning guests when they see this. The colourful critters decorating this fish tea tray are (modified) glass perch. Scientists dissolve their muscles using an enzyme, then dye the remaining cartilage blue and make the bone go red to help study them. Little did they know the interesting kitchenware gifts they would spawn in the process...


Pick up the tray



4. Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 pocket diary


Tough, hardback cover... Fits into almost any bag, pocket or purse... Irresistibly cute baby orang-utan on the cover.... Strewn with beautiful pics from Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibitions... It’s the fail-safe gift that will delight any nature-loving recipient, from youngster to pensioner.


Get diarised






3. Pocket microscope


On closer inspection, this is probably the perfect stocking filler for curious youngsters. The microscopes are ideal for examining everyday household stuff – hairs, ants, food crumbs – for revealing their finer details. Could your little one be the next Alexander Fleming or Rosalind Franklin? Put a microscope in their mitts and find out. A great, educational toy, and lots of fun too.


Take a closer look



2. Fluff-up print on demand


One of my favourites from this year’s print range is this eye-popping black and white portrait, Fluff-up by John E Marriott. It’s such a striking image that it never fails to make people stop and look. We’re really pleased with the quality of the prints and, for the right person, this one would make a sensational gift.


Buy it online

Browse all our prints




1. Portfolio 22


Seen our latest edition of Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year? If not, shame on you. Either way - you can enjoy all 100 photos in this fantastic book. It’s another versatile gift that would please pretty much anyone. From landscapes to dramatic and sometimes humourous animal portraits, photojournalism and abstract views of the natural world, there’s an amazing array of images to keep eyes entertained well into 2013.


Snap up Portfolio 22


I hope you enjoyed my selections. For more gift ideas, check out our festive shopping guide or pop along to our shop to browse the full range of gifts available online. Merry Christmas!


Matt, online shop editor


After a week of busy media and VIP events, our Animal Inside Out exhibition bared all to the public for its Easter opening yesterday on Good Friday.


The exhibition, which is adapted from Gunther von Hagens' famous Body Worlds plastinated shows, is set to flex its momentous muscles and open hearts throughout the coming summer months. As well as being an illuminating anatomical journey, it really is something to behold. At times the exhibits appear more like artworks than plastinated animals with exposed inner organs. The gallery has been beautifully designed and lit. There's no doubt it will be big success.


Actress Miranda Richardson contemplates the enormous 4-tonne, plastinated elephant at our recent Animal Inside Out celebrity event.

Among the VIPs who attended the exhibition's recent celebrity launch were Miranda Richardson, Bill Wyman, Celia Sawyer, Will Self, and John Humphrys. Enjoy some of the photos from the night and some of the other stars of the show.


Musician Bill Wyman looks into the eyes of the goat


Four Rooms dealer Celia Sawyer gets interior design tips from the plastinated cuttlefish

For the launch events, Dr Angelina Whalley from the Insitute for Plastination and co-founder of Body Worlds was at hand to answer questions. I asked her if there was an animal they hadn't yet plastinated but would like to. She told me: 'It's Gunther's dream to plastinate a blue whale. But the elephant was such an enormous challenge, and so costly, I am not wishing for that to come true too quickly'.will-self-horse-head-1000.jpg

Writer Will Self looks a stripped horse head in the mouth.. the horse's head is cut into three sections to show it's inner workings.

The exhibition focuses on six different internal anatomical systems: the muscular, blood, skeletal, digestive, nervous, and reproductive. From tiny chicks to towering giraffes, it features nearly 100 plastinated animals.


If you are considering visiting with children, have a look at the exhibition website and highlghts slideshow to see what's inside.


Buy tickets for Animal Inside Out


Find out more about the exhibition and plastination


Read the news story about the exhibition and the plastination of the elephant

More celebrity photos at Animal Inside Out's launch event. Select images to enlarge them


Actress Olivia Grant
Presenter John Humphrys


Fashion designer Pam Hogg


Journalist Kate Adie


Actor Rafe Spall


Presenter Evan Davis
Presenter Dallas Campbell

It's been a busy weekend of events....first Tadpoles on Saturday and then Dwarf Elephants on Sunday.  A curious combination of topics, but each equally fascinating!


Our Tadpole event was timed to tie-in with the first frog spawn starting to appear in our ponds.....which apparently it is, although warmer weather should help more appear.  Apparently (according to our amphibian curator Barry Clarke) frogs have been known to produce spawn as early as December some years, but hard frosts kill the eggs and it's not until the weather becomes milder that the tadpoles are able to start developing.  In fact, the warmer the weather, the quicker they devlop from tadpoles to adults.


Barry was a complete star as always and brought along lots of specimens from our zoology collections.


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Note the specimen in the centre of the bottom row.....this is a Midwife Toad.  They show great parental care (unlike our common frogs which lay their eggs and then leave them!)  The female Midwife Toad lays her eggs and the male then wraps them around his back legs.  He then carries them around with him (swimming and moving about seemingly unhindered) until the tadpoles are ready to emerge and swim off.  Because of this parental care, the eggs are far safer and have a greater chance of survival than if they were left unprotected.


iphone pics 009.jpg

However, for the ultimate in parental care, go onto the BBC website and use their 'wildlife finder' to watch some incredible footage of Darwin's frog.  You won't believe your eyes


As for the Dwarf Elephants today, well, they were certainly small!  Tori Herridge (a researcher in our Palaeontology Department) brought along some fossils from our collections....including lots of teeth.  The photo below shows the tooth of an extinct Straight-Tusked Elephant at the bottom and an extinct Dwarf Elephant tooth at the top of the photo.  Quite a difference in size!  The Straight-Tusked Elephant was one of the largest elephants ever to live, and could grow to as much as 4 metres tall.  In comparison, Dwarf Elephants were sometimes only 1 metre tall as adults!


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We'll be repeating Tori's Nature Live event later this month, at 2.30pm on Wednesday 30th March in the Attenborough Studio.  As always, the event is free and lasts for 30 minutes.  So come and join us if you can and discover more about these mysterious Dwarf Elephants.....


Back by popular demand are my personal top 10 museum gifts for Christmas 2010. I actually hadn't been feeling all that Christmassy until a colleague declared all of their shopping done, wrapped and ready under their Christmas tree. Not a shred of tinsel has been near my house. I'm not even sure we 'do' tinsel in the East End of London.


Anyway if, like me, you still have yet to make a dent in your gift shopping and Christmas preparation, then I hope this will provide some inspiration.

Also, check our website for info about shopping at the Museum, or take part in festive events and activities. Here's my list of favourites.


10. Cuddly meerkat toy - £20





You might have noticed something of a meerkat fixation in the UK of late. We have been rather inundated with requests for meerkat toys, gifts, books... So we responded by introducing this lovely chap.


Do not try to resist its charms – it’s just too cute and cuddly to ignore. It’s also rather realistic, I think.


Give the meerkat a cuddle

















9. Grow a sunflower in elephant poo - £5




Surprisingly, this 'elephant poo in a box' is completely odourless. According to the (biodegradable) box, elephants produce 'about one tonne of dung every week'. That's quite a lot. Roughly equivalent in weight to 15 online shop editors. Some of that poo, collected from UK zoos and safari parks, ends up in this box.


Proceeds from sales of the elephant poo-in-a-box go to elephant conservation charities. So do your bit by giving someone you love some poo for Christmas.


Elephant poo in our online shop







8. Giant T.rex soft toy - £1021.74


Has that special person in your life got all the other cuddly dinosaur toys? Do you also have rather a lot of disposable income?


If the answer to these questions is 'yes', then this is the cuddly dinosaur toy for you. It measures over 2m tall.


Notable, I thought. Imagine the fun.


Be astonished by the Giant T.rex in the shop












7. Bird brooches - £40


bird-brooch-red-blue.jpgApparently these are gorgeous. I am told by female colleagues that they would definitely please the special lady in your life.


There are 4 different styles to choose from, and they are all hand-painted. There isn't much stock though, so hurry!


See all 4 bird brooches






6. Wildlife Photographer of the Year hardback diary - £9.99




This is a really nice gift for nature lovers. Being a bit of a photo enthusiast myself I love the crisp, full-page pics that seem to pop out of the glossy pages.


It also has captions, which make interesting reading. Lovely. And it's made by our friends in Natural History Museum Publishing.


Have a look at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year diary in the shop





5. Pink, articulated Stegosaurus model - £10




It may not be the newest dinosaur model in our collection, and it definitely isn't a T.rex, but this Stegosaurus model is my personal favourite, and comes highly recommended as a Christmas gift for kids.


It takes prime position on my desk, clambering up some natural history books, and is frequently admired by office visitors ('Look but do not touch').


View the pink Stegosaurus in the shop








4. Dinosaur art set for kids - £12




I used to like colouring things in when I was very young. This gorgeous dinosaur art set is ideal for little ones just beginning to discover their inner David Hockney.


Chunky felt-tip pens, colouring pencils, oil pastels, sharpener, eraser, 6 scary dinosaur pics to colour in... What's not to love?


Check out the Dinosaur art set in the shop





3. Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011 calendar





This lovely calendar is from the current incarnation of Wildlife Photographer of the Year - sponsored by Veolia Environnement (French accent, please). I love the tarsier on the front. If it were not completely irresponsible, I'd probably look into importing one to keep as a pet. There are lots of other amazing images for the other months, too.


I also chose this because, if you're a bit stuck for a gift, it's pretty much ideal for anyone.


Give a Wildlife Photographer of the Year calendar to someone special







2. Pteranodon kite




Is it a bird? Is it a plane (and so on)? What a brilliant invention the Pteranodon kite is. Perfect for dinosaur addicts and ideal for the blustery climes of the UK.


We tried one out near the Museum and it's incredibly light so it sails in the breeze like a dream. It also made my colleagues very jealous. That earns the kite second place.





Buy a Pteranodon kite in our online shop







1. Prints on demand - from £15





We recently started working with a new prints supplier. The quality and range of images is fantastic and there are more options than ever for customising them. This one, Paris life by Laurent Geslin, is my favourite.


See if you can choose a favourite (it's tough).


Visit our prints on demand shop


How to identify an elephant tooth

A beginner's guide to how we identify a surprisingly common enquiry: mammoth and elephant teeth.


elephant tooth web.jpg


Left: This tooth was a family heirloom brought in for ID this week. Many elephant and mammoth teeth that are brought in for ID are heirlooms that have been knocking about the house for a couple of generations. This is an Asian elephant tooth. It is a molar, so it's a grinding tooth.


Below: Grinding surface of Asian elephant tooth (left) and African elephant tooth (right) in the NHM Mammal gallery. The African elephant tooth has a more diamond shaped pattern to the grinding surface



And the elephants themselves in the Mammal gallery - African (top) and Asian (below). Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants and their teeth are smaller on average too.


Below. On the left, a mammoth tooth. On the right, a modern Asian elephant tooth.


fossils 010.jpg


Left: Mammoth tooth. This was dredged up by a fisherman from the North sea and brought to us for ID. Mammoth teeth have a similar grinding to the Asian elephant, and look different to the grinding surface of the African elephant. And mammoths are indeed more closely related to Asian elephants than African elephants!











Mammoth and elephant teeth can be very fragile and tend to crack downwards as you can see here. This can leave isolated plates instead of the whole tooth.


Now you can identify elephant and mammoth teeth!


Visit out Twitter page at to see the finds we get in every day