The Bengal Natural History Museum is just a few minutes’ walk down the hill from the Chawrasta Mall. Started in 1903, the museum endeavored to display butterflies and birds of that region. A small building was constructed in the Botanical garden of Darjeeling which was expanded later to house a huge collection and specimens that include wide varieties of birds with nests and eggs, reptiles and fishes, mammals, insects and more.
The specimens that are displayed are of real creatures that were captured and preserved. A special taxidermy department is responsible for the curing, staffing and rendering the animals for display.
As you enter the ground floor, you are greeted with a large room with rows of glass cabinets on both sides. The birds section include specimens of owls that include Northern Spotted Owlets, Himalayan Brown Wood Owls, Northern Brown Fish Owls, woodpeckers, pheasants, fly catchers etc displayed in natural settings on the tree branches. The museum houses more than 820 specimens of birds from more than 400 species in Darjeeling.
The other side of the room you find a large collection of birds’ eggs displayed in beautiful collection of nests. Right across the main room, lies a huge crocodile from the Estuarine species which is said to be a dangerous predator. As I walked past its giant frame, I couldn’t but help murmur a prayer. The very thought of it if it was alive and moving sent a chill through my spine. Nevertheless, I took some mindful snaps of the sleeping predator. A selfie with it? Nah, that would be too much.
Apart from this, there are 35 snake species out of a total of 76 species available in this area. There are also 57 species of fishes displayed in the museum. Some of the other interesting variety includes the Tibetan fox, Tibetan Lynx, heads of wild buffaloes hanging from the walls. There are panthers or leopards as well adding up to the glory of the place. Two large ivory are also on display. An entire section is dedicated for insects that houses 608 different species of butterflies and moths apart from 1104 types of other insects.
From the ground floor, the museum extends to the basement that houses species such as pelicans, jungle fowls and others displayed at a backdrop of various land features of West Bengal. The landscapes are also segregated into forested hills, wetlands, the fertile Ganges, the dry areas with its natural vegetation and the Sundarbans.
The museum houses a library and a reading room that preserves some valuable books about the fauna of this region.