The Noel Kempff Mercado Museum of Natural History in Santa Cruz, Bolivia houses animal and plant specimens, minerals and gems, a Spatial Analysis Laboratory, a specialized library, an auditorium, and a permanent biodiversity photography exhibit.
Noel Kempff was a Bolivian biologist, nature lover and conservationist after whom the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park is also named. The museum is currently administered by the Gabriel René Moreno Autonomous University.
This museum, though small, contains an interesting collection of minerals and gems including the "bolivianita", found only in Bolivia.
It also has a taxidermy collection of animals, birds, insects and reptiles found typically in Eastern Bolivia and our rainforests (like an enormous 6-meter anaconda that makes a trip to the museum worthwhile all by itself). In addition, you can learn about dozens of species of plants in the botany section.
The Natural History Museum is also involved in disseminating information on natural resource conservation and the effects climate change will have on our lives, and holds workshops on these topics and others (like botany and mineral production) for students, researchers and the public in its 50-person auditorium.
The Spatial Analysis Laboratory applies Geographic Information System and Remote Sensor technologies to study conservation and natural resource management. It maintains an impressive historical archive of digital and satellite maps and specialists continually add to the museum's huge information database.
The museum's "Environmental Education and Communications" department publishes EL PATUJÚ (named for one of the two
of Bolivia), a bulletin issued periodically to inform on changes in its exhibits and workshops to be held, and to educate the public on specific conservation issues. You can also visit the museum's website for further information.
Collections: Over 5000 fossils, more than 50,000 botanical speciments, almost 130,000 insects, over 1900 mammals, more than 22,000 fish, approximately 5000 reptiles, and nearly 3000 amphibians. Not all are on display at once, of course. Many are part of research collections that are being preserved.
Av. Irala #565
(Between Av. Ejercito and Velarde)
Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Tel: (591-3) 336-6574 or 337-1216
NKM Museum of Natural History
Open M-F 8:00-12:00 and 3:00-6:30
The most important aspect of the Noel Kempff Mercado Museum of Natural History is that it is an ongoing, continually growing laboratory and research center, not just a building with static displays. Hundreds of students, researchers, conservationists, scientists and non-governmental organizations from all over the world contribute information to the museum, it's displays, laboratories, workshops, library and databases making this a truly "live" experience for visitors. Photographs are allowed, but it's a little hard because of all the glass and neon lights.