Milestones, origins and sharks!

I have not been good with keeping up postings on whatever strikes my fancy, but a few things lately have moved me to get past that.

First off, Fauna Figures has now been operating for 2 whole years! I started up through a period of major transition for myself and my family, and now we’re more settled–but the store is still here. It’s been a bit of a learning experience, and sometimes other facets of my life get in the way, but it does give me the opportunity to stick with a hobby that I have been part of for decades.

Second, our Facebook page just hit 100 Likes (and beyond), which is pretty cool. I’m thrilled that people find us, when I don’t really do enough to get people’s attention. But I really want to–and every time I see another like, it gives me a push to keep doing things. So I’m really going to try to–and not necessarily about just the store stuff. I have a pretty large collection of animal figures of all sorts, from all kinds of places and companies, and it might be fun to explore them in some detail here and there. And I’m going to start by telling a strange tale that recently hit me about where it all got started.

Finally, the reason that I was only recently reminded of my origin story was hearing about the passing, at 92 years of age, of Dr. Eugenie Clark. For those who aren’t familiar with the name, she was a major figure in shark research and education. And this was important to me, although it kind of slipped my memory until I’d heard her name again. (Interestingly, I am posting this on International Women’s Day. It wasn’t intentional, but that’s how things go!)

 

The MojoFun Great White shark. A standard fish figure, but it's one that every line needs to have! This will make sense soon!

The MojoFun Great White shark. A standard fish figure, but it’s one that every line needs to have!

 

But how is this related? Well, when I was a kid I was big into dinosaurs (I know, surprise–look at what’s in the store!). One day at the library, having picked through the dinosaur books again, I saw a title on a spine called “Dictionary of Shar_s”. It made me curious–what was a Shar? (Perhaps not my most insightful moment, but I was maybe 10). So I grabbed it, and saw that title was Dictionary of Sharks, which makes more sense as a title, so I grabbed it. The book literally listed and described all known sharks species, at least to genus, as well as describing sharks in general. I had always liked sharks, but it was a passing interest and had never been particularly eager to read about them in particular.

I read every page of that book, and I was hooked.

I became a shark fanatic. I hunted down any other book I could find–there wasn’t much. I wanted to see live sharks (hard to do on the Canadian prairies). I wanted everything to have sharks on them (a rarity in those days). And I watched whatever I could that had sharks in them. Hard to believe it now, but shark documentaries or other movies that were worth watching–and kid friendly–were few and far between at that time.And then along came National Geographic. With their documentary Sharks, I finally found something that would show sharks as cool, unique, living animals, doing whatever it was sharks do. And making the case that sharks, like pretty much everything else, were not mean or evil or anything, just living. I first saw the show on TV, then eventually was able to rent it at the video store and eventually, one Christmas, I got my very own copy–a big deal then, since home VHS was still a growing market. And I might still have that copy–but I don’t know if I even have a machine to play it!

Anyway, one thing that really stuck out for me were the real scientists in the show, ones who swam with and studied sharks, and taught about them to others. And out of all of them, there was one name that stuck out, and I always remembered–Dr. Eugenie Clark. I was fascinated that this person was able to make a career out of learning about the coolest animals on the planet! This woman was as close to a celebrity hero (of Science!) as I’d ever have–she got to do such awesome things! For a long while I wanted to pursue a career in marine biology just to study sharks (it didn’t happen for various reasons…life and all).

So that’s what sent me off on my strange meandering path.

In those long-past days, I wanted shark stuff and couldn’t really be picky. And it’s hard to imagine now, but at the time, sharks were not all that available as merchandise other than in books, most of which weren’t all that good (again–on the prairies. Maybe in seaside communities?). I have always been a collector, and liked having animal toys (at any age!). It was years before I even saw one for sale, and even longer before I got a decent model of one (which I still have! It was in my high school locker, but the kids have it now). And of course, the vast majority were great white sharks.

Monterey Bay Great White Shark

This is the figure here, a Safari Ltd/Monterey Bay Aquarium great white shark. It looks a little rougher now, since the kids enjoy it, but it’s still here. Just as heavy and pointy as ever! With the right-size whale figures, it also makes a good Megalodon! And 20+ years ago it made a great locker ornament!

 

Now, of course, the range of animals available as models, toys and figures has grown exponentially, and not only among sharks. I have 100s of models of sharks (and their relatives, rays and chimaeras), with a huge variety of species from a wide range of companies. I’ve never limited myself to just sharks, but they’ve always been an important element to my collection. And knowing how diverse they are, I am always happy to add new and unusual ones. In fact, in that winding, twisty way life works, I was actually involved with the development of the Safari Ltd PREHISTORIC SHARKS TOOB a few years back (mostly in species ideas and some info suggestions–I’m no sculptor! I also worked on the initial development of the Prehistoric Crocodiles). I’m guessing that boyhood me, or even teenage me, would have been shocked that someday I wouldn’t just have a diverse collection of toy sharks–but that I’d help get some really odd, fossil ones made!

Which brings me back full circle–and part of why I wanted to have a store, even just online as a bit of a hobby, was to give people the chance to represent some of their favorite animals on their shelves or in their toy rooms. And sometimes, to try and encourage the companies to do something different and broaden everyone’s horizons.

The CollectA Manta Ray. A close relative of sharks, rays like this have evolved to be very flat, with broad fins and gills on the underside. The Manta is the biggest of them.

The CollectA Manta Ray. A close relative of sharks, rays like this have evolved to be very flat, with broad fins and gills on the underside. The Manta is the biggest of them.

So that’s 2 years, and 100+ Likes on Facebook, all thanks to a random shark book, and an awesome documentary featuring a ground-breaking scientist that inspired me as a boy and who recently passed away.

The CollectA Sawfish. Sawfish are a very distinct type of ray, with an almost shark-like body and a long snout lined with teeth for hunting. Oddly enough, there is a group of sharks called Saw Sharks that have a similar snout but are not directly related!

The CollectA Sawfish. Sawfish are a very distinct type of ray, with an almost shark-like body and a long snout lined with teeth for hunting. Oddly enough, there is a group of sharks called Saw Sharks that have a similar snout but are not directly related!

And since it is a store, I should point out that we have lots of different sharks of a-ll kinds (pictured throughout the post). Whether as awesome bathtub toys or models on shelves, every time we present sharks in a way that makes them familiar and somehow more real it helps build an appreciation for them, and sharks are very worth appreciating!