The Wildlife Museum in Stokkseyri Village in South-Iceland - have you ever seen a Giraffe in Iceland?

In Stokkseyri village in South-Iceland, you will find a unique museum called Veiðisafnið - Wildlife Museum (Hunting Museum) - the biggest museum of its kind in the Nordic countries. The museum is a non-profit organisation and the only museum in my country dedicated to wildlife and ethical hunting.  

At the Wildlife Museum, you can see the animals, the guns with which they were hunted, and get a guided tour by the hunter himself!  At the museum, you will see all kinds of animals, f.ex. a giraffe, ostrich, full mount lions and a full mount polar bear, buffaloes, a zebra, a musk ox, a crocodile, seals and all kinds of mammals and birds from 3 continents. 

The visitors at this museum are mainly Icelanders, but I have for the longest time wanted to introduce this unique museum to our foreign visitors as well. Driving down to the sea to visit the villages of Stokkseyri and Eyrarbakki is a lovely detour from ring road 1.

The Wildlife Museum in Stokkseyri Village in South-Iceland - have you ever seen a Giraffe in Iceland?

Páll Reynisson, the founder of the Wildlife Museum, is the only Icelander who is well known for hunting with a handgun abroad. He hunts almost every type of animal with a handgun: lions, giraffes, antelopes and even crocodiles!

Páll is a perfectionist and his collection is beautifully mounted on the walls and on the floor - with birds flying above one's head. The Wildlife Museum is the largest museum in Iceland with birds in their flying position.

This museum is extraordinary and much more than one expects. It is amazing really that in the small village of Stokkseyri such a museum can be found.  The museum is also the home of the hunter Páll, who opened his museum to the public in 2004. 

The Wildlife Museum in Stokkseyri Village in South-Iceland - have you ever seen a Giraffe in Iceland?

Páll started hunting when he was a teenager and started out with 2 stuffed birds. His collection eventually grew so much that he had filled 3 houses in Reykjavík. He then moved with his collection in 1999 to Stokkseyri village right by the sea in South-Iceland.

More and more people were knocking on his door to have a peek at his animals and when 1,000 people had visited him for that purpose over a period of 6 months - entering through his kitchen and saying that it was selfish of him not opening up a museum to show the animals, he decided on opening up a museum to show people his huge collection.

Páll told me that one night a bus with 42 people had arrived at 11 pm at the museum. This group had been having dinner at Fjöruborðið restaurant in Stokkseyri. Páll opened the door in his pyjamas and showed them his museum, proving that this unique museum has got the personal touch :)

The Wildlife Museum in Stokkseyri Village in South-Iceland - have you ever seen a Giraffe in Iceland?

For the next 2 years, there was an explosion in the number of visitors at the museum and Páll expanded the museum in 2005 and 2006, adding a second showroom on the 9th of June 2007 - so now 2 groups can be welcomed at the same time. Daily visitors vary from 2-424, but on the average ca 7,000 guests visit the Wildlife Museum annually. In 2009, in the first year after the financial collapse in Iceland, a whopping 9,000 guests paid the Wildlife Museum a visit. Icelanders were not travelling abroad in that year as our króna collapsed in the crisis.

There are 2 big showrooms - one with a big giraffe in one part of the room plus numerous other animals, which Páll has hunted in 3 continents - Europe (Iceland and Sweden) Greenland, North-America and South-Africa. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the giraffe, but it is huge!

Páll shot the giraffe in 2000 in South-Africa with a cal. 44 Magnum, single shot with Ruger Super Redhawk. The giraffe was 35 years old, 5.03 meters high and 1,250 kilos.

The Wildlife Museum in Stokkseyri Village in South-Iceland - have you ever seen a Giraffe in Iceland?

In the newer showroom, there is a lion and a lioness, a polar bear, a crocodile and numerous birds and other animals. On display is also various hunting-gear, like rifles, hunting knives etc. It is quite amazing and so worth a visit.

The polar bear was shot in Greenland, not by Páll himself though. The museum bought the polar bear from a taxidermist in Akureyri in North-Iceland. It has been jokingly said that this polar bear is the only polar bear, which has travelled under the ocean through the Hvalfjarðargöng tunnel.

Next to the polar bear, there are 2 white Arctic foxes, but Arctic foxes are amongst the few wild mammals in Iceland. They stay away from humans and I have only twice seen foxes in the wilderness of Iceland on my travels.

The Wildlife Museum in Stokkseyri Village in South-Iceland - have you ever seen a Giraffe in Iceland?

The biggest prey in Iceland is the reindeer bull. The reindeer were imported in the year 1771 from Norway and run wild in East-Iceland only. At the museum, you will find 2 life-size reindeer.

Páll says that the main attractions at the museum are the lions and the giraffe. Páll shot the lions on his 50th birthday (19th of May) in South-Africa. He swore on his 25th birthday that he would shoot a lion on his 50th birthday - and he kept his promise. 

Páll and his friend, Jónas Geir Sigurðsson, shot two American Buffaloes (Bos Bison) with a handgun in Minnesota USA. Their shoulder mounts have been mounted on the wall in the first showroom. The Buffaloes were fully grown males - one weighing 950 kilos and the other one 1,100 kilos - they are massive!

Standing in front of them looking them into their glass eyes is surreal, I never realized how big this animal is until I saw it at the Wildlife Museum! The gun they used was a T/C Contender cal. 45-70 and the weight of the bullet was 400 grain. Taxidermist Ted Pilgrim in the USA mounted the buffaloes. I wish I had a photo of the buffaloes to show you how big they really are.

The Wildlife Museum in Stokkseyri Village in South-Iceland - have you ever seen a Giraffe in Iceland?

Often school-groups visit the museum - from Iceland, the Faroe Islands and students studying natural history have visited from Copenhagen. The museum also has lectures for kids as they are especially enthusiastic about seeing all these animals and hearing stories about hunting.

There isn't another museum of this nature in Iceland and the Wildlife Museum is one of its kind in the Northern countries. Just imagine, this huge museum - established and run by Páll - is one of its kind in the Northern countries!

Páll has done everything at the museum himself from A-Z - apart from the taxidermy.  95% of the animals at the museum have been haunted by Páll. Most of the animals are the work of taxidermists in South-Africa and are shipped to Iceland. According to Páll, the best taxidermists are in South-Africa. The quality of the taxidermy is the central issue to the perfectionist Páll and is of course first class. 

All the ammunition for the guns are custom-made by Páll himself, he hunts the animals, he created the lighting and design of the museum, he is a photographer and he mops the floors. He imports the goods directly and organises the hunting tours himself without a middleman, which keeps the prices low.

The Wildlife Museum in Stokkseyri Village in South-Iceland - have you ever seen a Giraffe in Iceland?

In 2009 Páll went on a hunting safari to South-Africa and on that trip, he acquired an ostrich and a crocodile. The life-size ostrich is on display, it is a 2-meters-high male ostrich. It is huge, much bigger than I am and almost scary looking, I would not want that animal running after me, nor any other animal for that matter! The crocodile, a Nile crocodile, is mounted whole on one of the walls of the museum.

Páll also hunted 4 different types of antelopes and you can see their shoulder mount on one of the museum's walls.

On the same trip in 2009, Páll took part in a rescue hunt where he shot a rhino with a dart from a specially made rifle. The rhino was darted and its horns removed - then the rhino was released. Not having any horns the rhino is of no value to poachers - and thus its life was saved. Poachers kill the rhinos for their horns, which they can get a good price for in Asia, as there the powdered horns of a rhino are believed to be medicinal.  

Mounted on the wall in one of the showrooms at the Wildlife Museum is a cast of the shoulder mount of that huge rhino. It is the only replica at the museum.

The Wildlife Museum in Stokkseyri Village in South-Iceland - have you ever seen a Giraffe in Iceland?

No photos are allowed inside the museum for security reasons, so I had to borrow some from the photographer and former TV-cameraman - the hunter Páll. They are in black and white, as the Wildlife Museum uses black and white photos on its website.

Páll allowed me to take a couple of photos in the museum reception, f.ex. of the puffins, which in my opinion have to be shown in colour as they have such colourful beaks. So the colour photos are mine. I have been stalking Páll for a couple of years now - begging him for permission to take some photos as I wanted to write about his museum.

Even though he is my brother-in-law I never got his permission. He eventually caved in though and allowed me to use some of the photos belonging to the museum. Thank you, Páll ;)

The Wildlife Museum in Stokkseyri Village in South-Iceland - have you ever seen a Giraffe in Iceland?

250 animals (birds and mammals) are on display at the Wildlife Museum and 55 guns! Páll regularly moves things around and changes the display and improves - being the perfectionist he is. A grey wolf hunted in December 2012 in Estonia was added to the museum in 2016.The grey wolf, the polar bear and the moose are animals which have been bought for the museum.

The latest additions to the Wildlife Museum are 8 animals from South-Africa, which were hunted in 2016 and put on display in the summer of 2017.

Some of the animals are on loan from the Icelandic Institute of Natural History, like the dusky leaf monkey, the beautiful big owl and the lion's head. These items are old and were a donation to the Icelandic Institute of Natural History in Iceland. 

Seeing that the Icelandic Institute of Natural History hasn't got any museum (which to me is incomprehensible) they have an agreement with Páll and the Wildlife Museum for him to exhibit some of their items.

The Wildlife Museum in Stokkseyri Village in South-Iceland - have you ever seen a Giraffe in Iceland?

Páll runs the Wildlife Museum and lives at the museum with my sister. They have a breathtaking ocean view from their apartment - and they often see whales swimming by! Fancy that! Once a year they invite my whole family for a barbecue and a sleep-over at the museum.

Then my husband and I sleep on mattresses in the showroom with the polar bear and the lions, and when I open my eyes in the morning I have 2 reindeer staring at me - plus a couple of swans flying over my head. It is quite a unique experience!

The Wildlife Museum in Stokkseyri Village in South-Iceland - have you ever seen a Giraffe in Iceland?

Páll is a trophy hunter with a good heart - the Indian in him tells him to follow the animals to the end and he is sure that he will meet their souls again. Until then the animals get an eternal life at the museum.

In Africa, they make use of the whole animal and eat the offals.  Páll eats the meat of the animals he hunts and it is sold, so nothing goes to waste. Only the pelt of the animal is used for taxidermy. I cannot see that this is anything different than slaughtering sheep, pigs, horses and cattle on a large scale for their meat like some people would like to argue for. The stock needs combing out and often the older animals get haunted. 

Páll told me that lion meat is dangerously good! He tries the meat of all the animals he hunts and has tasted the polar bear meat, the meat of giraffe, antelopes etc. Páll claims that hunting animals is intrinsic and I must agree with him, even though I chose to be vegan for 26 years. Páll is a preservationist and says that most hunters are preservationists. The hunters pay a towering fee for hunting the animals in Africa and this fee goes to the preservation of the stock. 

In Iceland, the hunters also pay for the research on wild animals with the fee they pay for the annual hunting license. 

Páll has got several acknowledgements from the Safari Club International – SCI hanging on the walls of the museum. He is a serious trophy hunter and trophy hunting is a big industry in South-Africa. 

The Wildlife Museum in Stokkseyri Village in South-Iceland - have you ever seen a Giraffe in Iceland?

The Wildlife Museuminvites blind and visually impaired people for one weekend of a free touch safari at the museum, in collaboration with the Icelandic organisation of the visually impaired. The animals are then dismounted and the blind visitors are given gloves so they can touch the animals.

Up to 50 blind or visually impaired people can visit the museum at the same time. Several blind people have travelled from England to visit the museum during this weekend.

The Wildlife Museum in Stokkseyri Village in South-Iceland - have you ever seen a Giraffe in Iceland?

There is an annual gun exhibition for one weekend at the Wildlife Museum. It is the 12th time (2017) this exhibition has been held and several hundred people visit the exhibition during those 2 days - it is very popular. On display is a varied selection of all kind of firearms; shotguns, machine guns, army rifles, handguns etc. Firearms from privately owned collections are on exhibition at the museum for the duration of this weekend only.

Watch an interview which the TV-station Stöð 2 made with Páll at the gun exhibition.  It is in Icelandic only as it was on our news, but it will give you a rare glimpse into the museum and of the guns.

At the museum, you will see two handmade shotguns made by the late Jón Björnsson from Dalvík, who was around 70 years old when he started making guns.  All in all, he made 120 handmade shotguns, which he called Drífa. They became very popular as Jón Björnsson was extremely skilled in this art and his guns are masterpieces and collector's items. Páll and the descendants of Jón Björnsson managed to trace all 120 Drífa guns, which was a huge task. The locations of these guns was a research project of the Wildlife Museum.

Páll has paid homage to some of the great hunters of Iceland, f.ex. to two well-known fox hunters with an exhibition on their life and weapons. They are Sigurður Ásgeirsson (Siggi tófa) from Gunnarsholt and Einar Guðlaugsson from Þverá. 

Páll has held a seminar for new gun owners at the local gun club SFS for the Icelandic police, teaching them how to use firearms.

The Wildlife Museum in Stokkseyri Village in South-Iceland - have you ever seen a Giraffe in Iceland?

Páll is such a perfectionist that it is a delight visiting the museum, everything is perfectly arranged in a beautiful manner. A guided tour is available by appointment, make use of that as Páll is very knowledgeable and a great character. 

The museum is open: April-September: daily from 11:00-18:00. October-March: weekends only. December and January: closed.

The Wildlife Museum is the second building to the right as you enter the lovely village of Stokkseyri, so this is where you can start, by visiting the Wildlife Museum before you visit the village itself. If you are interested in hunting and wildlife, or just wildlife and to have a look at the animals, then visiting this unique museum should not be missed.

The Wildlife Museum in Stokkseyri Village in South-Iceland - have you ever seen a Giraffe in Iceland?

Above I have added a map with the location of both Stokkseyri village and the Wildlife Museum, so you can see where it is located. 

To visit the south coast of Iceland you can rent a car in Reykjavík and drive to Stokkseyri and Eyrarbakki in less than an hour via route 1 South and route 39, which we call Þrengslin. On the way, you will pass Raufarhólshellir lava cave, where you can join an hour's guided tour of the colourful lava cave.

Have a lovely time at the Wildlife Museum :)

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