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Perry Poon: Propsmaster
Posted on July 6, 2012
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Skinning sharks, treating marine mammal pelts and pickling animals in a jar … it’s all in a day’s work for Vancouver Aquarium props coordinator Perry Poon. He’s in charge of preparing specimens and making sure they’re properly displayed for use in Aquarium education programs.

It’s one thing to talk about a killer whale jaw, but it’s quite another to actually run your fingers along the teeth that once belonged to Moby Doll, the killer whale that changed how its species is perceived. The Aquarium’s educational props provide visitors with a hands-on experience, allowing them to see up-close, touch and smell the many different artifacts that come from our natural environments.

There is no shortage of specimens and props at the Aquarium. From sea cucumber guts to arapaima (a huge fish) heads, Perry has dealt with it all. But ask him about his most notorious prop and he’s likely to tell you that it’s a bullfrog eating another bullfrog.

This bullfrog choked and died eating another bullfrog

That’s right. Years ago, Aquarium staff came upon a bullfrog in an exhibit that had choked and died mid-meal while attempting to eat a smaller bullfrog. Perry took those specimens, treated them and now the larger bullfrog (with the smaller bullfrog’s legs dangling out of its mouth) is in a jar at AquaNews (at the top of the ramp leading to the dolphin exhibit) for all to see. Talk about a last supper…

Many of the props are acquired by donation from people who conduct major cleanups of their houses, and they come laden with all sorts of things that have been passed down for generations – relics of a bygone era. Perry says there was a family that had a large minke whale skull in their garage, and another one that recently donated boxes upon boxes of stuffed sea turtles, lobster moults, porcupinefish-lamps, a cheetah pelt and even a turtle that had been turned into a decorative rattle.

Perry says his favourite prop is a big marine invertebrate (trilobite) fossil, which he used as a volunteer in the Aquarium’s wet lab before he became the Aquarium props coordinator. Is there a prop you’ve seen at the Aquarium that made an impression on you?


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