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In this Wednesday, June 26, 2017 photo, performers dance next to a stuffed deer during an event at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Wednesday, June 26, 2017 photo, performers dance next to a stuffed deer during an event at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Photo essay

In Noah’s Ark of formaldehyde, long-dead critters animate Israel’s nature museum

Set to open in July, Tel Aviv institution's first exhibits will showcase some of its 5.5-million specimen collection, focusing on indigenous animals

AP — The hyena, pelican and monkey had never met before they were frozen in time in a Noah’s Ark of formaldehyde.

For decades they resided below ground at Tel Aviv University.

The creatures were meticulously labeled and maintained under a steady temperature to preserve them for research purposes.

But the animals never did appear to be dead in the room with little air or daylight.

In this Tuesday, September 5, 2017 photo, exhibition designers carry a stuffed hyena to be displayed at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

They were stuffed into poses taken from the lives they once lived. A bear seemed to prowl the room, as a cheetah looked like it was chasing its prey.

In this Wednesday, September 6, 2017 photo, taxidermist Igor Gavrilov makes final adjustments to a stuffed Syrian bear, killed in 1916, to be displayed at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Part of the collection is from German naturalist and Catholic priest Ernst Johann Schmitz, who lived in the Holy Land about a century ago, and it includes animals that are no longer seen in the region.

In this Sunday, April 22, 2018 photo, items from the Ernst Johann Schmitz collection are displayed at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Last month, the long-dead animals surfaced — reincarnated as exhibits at Israel’s new natural history museum, which is set to open in July.

In this Thursday, October 5, 2017 photo, a girl looks at taxidermy specimens in the collections storeroom of the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The ultra-modern ark-shaped edifice is set alongside the university campus and houses over 5.5 million specimens of species from around the globe.

In this Sunday, July 27, 2017 photo, taxidermist Igor Gavrilov works on a stuffed wolf to be displayed at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

But the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History places special emphasis on the flora and fauna indigenous to the Holy Land and Middle East.

In this Thursday, June 22, 2017 photo, a transparent sheet covers a seal skeleton in the collections storeroom of the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The museum’s curators say the institution — ticketed as the only natural history research center in the Middle East — aims to raise public awareness about the natural world and environment by highlighting both the country’s ecological diversity at the crossroads of three continents, and the devastation wrought by modern development.

In this Thursday, June 22, 2017 photo, an exhibition designer arranges stuffed birds at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The museum’s single exhibit on human evolution is situated on the top floor, allowing any visitors who may find the subject objectionable for religious reasons to easily bypass it.

In this Monday, February 19, 2018 photo, a human and a monkey skeleton await installation at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Associated Press photographer Oded Balilty was granted access to the animal storeroom ahead of the museum’s opening. Here are his impressions.

In this Sunday, November 5, 2017 photo, taxidermist Igor Gavrilov cleans a dolphin skeleton to be displayed at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
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