By Simon Leo Brown
Stuffed animals including penguins, foxes, a zebra and a polar bear are to deliver an environmental message at a new exhibition at the National Trust in East Melbourne.
Artist Rod McCrae used taxidermy to explore issues of climate change, pollution and the destruction of animal habitat.
"What I'm trying to do is create a story for the animal," he told 774 ABC Melbourne's Red Symons.
"People go 'oh my god, I really like that animal, I really want to save it'."
Mr McCrae said it was important that the animals were not behind glass, like they might be in a museum.
"Not that I'm encouraging people to touch them, of course," he said.
While Mr McRae has done his own taxidermy in the past he said he now mostly gets the work done for him.
"It's getting a little bit difficult to fit everything in the house," he said.
He said the animals were sourced ethically and were not killed specifically for the show.
"I haven't actually got anyone to go out and shoot anything for me," Mr McRae said.
Some of the animals came from the food industry, while others were killed by hunters but have "been traded on a few times".
"There's a zebra in the collection which I found on eBay and had shipped over from America," Mr McRae said.
He said transportation was one of the biggest challenges in using taxidermy, however he's had little trouble with animals being damaged in transit.
"They're actually surprisingly rigid," he said.
Contemporary take on taxidermy
The exhibition is set in the plush surrounds of Melbourne's Tasma Terrace, a former guest house now home to the National Trust in Victoria.
The Victorian-era terrace was built by shipping magnate George Nipper and designed by architect Charles Webb, the same team that would go on to build the Hotel Windsor.
The National Trust described the building as "one of the finest examples of a 19th century three-storey terrace house in Australia", and successfully campaigned to save the building from demolition in the 1970s.
Mr McRae said taxidermy was very much in fashion when Tasma Terrace was built in the 1870s and 80s.
He said it is probable that the terrace would have been decorated with taxidermic butterflies and stuffed animals in glass domes.
"[The exhibition is\ just a contemporary take on what would have originally been in the building as decoration," he said.
The exhibition starts on Thursday, February 5, and is open weekdays until April 30.