Christmas in July’ at Carver

by Kelsey Knutson

There are new faces on campus every fall – new faculty, staff and students – but this semester brought something a little different out of the woodwork.

Actually, it brought something out of the jungle a long time ago.

There are some new furry creatures in the Carver science building. The animals were permanently donated by the Ted Townsend family and the Great Ape Trust.

Simpson College has had a partnership with the Great Ape Trust of Iowa since the fall of 2007, and this partnership has traditionally benefited students and faculty in the psychology department. Now it will spread its resources for students in biology.

“We want to honor the wishes of the Townsend family and the Great Ape Trust,” Assistant Professor of Biology Ryan Rehmeier said. “It’s a great educational opportunity.”

In Carver one can find an Alaskan brown bear, a warthog, gazelle and water buffalo among many others. Some animals are already mounted in classrooms while others wait their unveiling in storage across campus.

“(The Great Ape Trust) wanted Simpson to have (the) first shot at these specimens,” Rehmeier said.

Ted Townsend is the founder of the Great Ape Trust of Iowa, and he and his father, Roy, donated the collection of animals to the Great Ape Trust after they legally hunted the animals in the 1960s and 70s. The animals come from parts of Africa and North America.

Three semi-truck loads full of animals showed up at Simpson College this summer, but that wasn’t all bad.

“That is Christmas in July for a mammalogist,” Rehmeier said.

Rehmeier said the animals could be used in upper level mammalogy courses by allowing students to compare and contrast the African mammals to those from North America. It will help students establish techniques for identifying mammals.

“It’s exciting to show how living organisms can be,” Rehmeier said. “As an ecologist I want to teach students and visitors how these animals make a living out in world and their conservation status. Hopefully the long term plan is to have these specimens on display in a public way throughout the building.”

Senior biology major Stefani Egnell said she has only heard good things about the animals in Carver, and agrees that these mammals will improve students’ understanding of mammals outside of North America.

“It’s cool that we can actually see these animals up close,” Egnell said. “Last year in my mammalogy class we only had a drawing of animals from Africa. A picture can only tell you so much.”

Egnell also worked in the Admissions Office during the summer months at Simpson, so when classes started up and she saw the new creatures in Carver it caught her a little off guard.

“I didn’t know they were coming,” Egnell said. “I walked into the building and saw the Alaskan brown bear – it was amazing.”

The animals were legally hunted over forty years ago, and were not poached. That is one thing that Rehmeier wants everyone to know.

“It’s good that they’re being used for teaching,” junior biology major Phil Seiwert said. “It was generous of the Great Ape Trust to give this to us.”

Beyond educational purposes, the animals also spice up the Carver building.

“Another benefit from the animals is that it makes the biology building even more exciting and interesting,” Rehmeier said.