Leeds nostalgia: Heavy footed Moa still makes big impression

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A spectacular relic of an age long past, Leeds City Museum’s Heavy-footed Moa skeleton was once one of the largest birds ever to roam the earth. The huge flightless bird originally came from New Zealand, where its species was driven to extinction by hunting around 570 years ago

The 1.35m skeleton first came to Leeds in 1868 when it was acquired by the then curator of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, Henry Denny. At the time it was the only example in the country outside the British Museum, London. It was damaged in 1941 after the Philosophical Museum was bombed during the war before being put into storage. In 2011, curators at Leeds Museums and Galleries uncovered the bones while looking through their collection at Leeds Discovery Centre.

Following restoration work, the skeleton was put on display at Leeds City Museum where it is part of a collection that also includes other extinct species like the Tasmanian wolf, Great Auk, Dodo and passenger pigeon.

Councillor Brian Selby, Leeds City Council’s lead member for museums and galleries, said: “Standing in front of the Moa brings home just what an incredible creature this was. It’s a humbling reminder of how fragile some species can be and perhaps observing extinct animals like this could help us to better protect and preserve the natural world so future generations will not have to go to museums to see some animals that are endangered today.”

Leeds City Museum is open Tues–Fri 10am-5pm.