Taxidermists feeling pinch

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by George Clark

Covid-19 has slashed a Pleasant Point taxidermist’s international work by more than 90%.

Last year, O’Rourke Taxidermists received more than 160 international consignments, compared with just 18 so far this year, and owner-operators Rob and Catherine Morrison are predicting the next two years could be equally affected.

Mr Morrison said the business had been impacted in the same way as New Zealand’s tourism industry.

“A large proportion of our business is international,” he said.

“Three weeks into what is generally a five-month hunting season, flights were cancelled and borders closed.

“Most hunters who fly into the country take a combination of red deer, a tahr and a chamois but that will not be happening for what we are deeming the next two years.”

O’Rourke Taxidermists have been mounting animal trophies in Pleasant Point for more than 60 years and Gerald O’Rourke built a business with an international reputation and a diverse portfolio.

Deer, tahr, salmon and a kiwi are just some of the mounts that can be seen in the front window in Pleasant Point’s Main Rd.

Mr Morrison said international orders accounted for more than 50% of most exporting taxidermists’ business.

“That is in both preparing the skins and sending them over to the United Kingdom and United States to finish the product,” he said.

“If we do the full mount, freight rates are much more expensive.

“Only certain airlines take trophies and when supply and demand says that all international flights coming to and from New Zealand have come to almost a halt, the freight rate can go up two or three times.”

Mr Morrison said revenue had been heavily impacted and the only way to manage was by reducing staff numbers.

“We would usually have six or seven people working as we skinned and prepared for a lot of overseas exports.

“Who knows what the future brings but we have to look at things we haven’t done in the past – be innovative.

“Because we have not had a surge in the last few months, we will slowly work our way through what jobs we have in the back.

“We still have a large variety of stuff going – there is another [brown] bear in the freezer – but we will have to work out our plan in the future.”

Blow to business . . . O’Rourke Taxidermists owner Rob Morrison says international consignments are down more than 90% on last year. PHOTO: GEORGE CLARK

He expressed his concern that local hunting businesses would also be affected.

“People book hunts often a year in advance, sometimes longer.

“Very few people will want to do a 14-day isolation to hunt and then go back to America for another 14-day isolation period.

“It would not surprise me if next year and the year after are knocked on the head, too.”

O’Rourke Taxidermists had been a big supporter of community events but Mr Morrison said it might be hard to keep doing so.

“In the past we have been big supporters of local events.

“A hunting competition last year raised $15,000 for St Joseph’s Primary School in Pleasant Point.

“We spend thousands and thousands on local activities and are really going to have to look at that going forward.”