Bust of gorilla Gargantua, circus elephant leg bone featured at Cook's museum in Decatur
This bust of Gargantua, a 6-foot-tall circus gorilla, was made from his death mask in 1971. It is on display at Cookâ??s Natural Science museum in Decatur. (Kelly Kazek/kkazek@al,com)
By Kelly Kazek | email@example.com
March 06, 2013
DECATUR, Alabama – A bust made from the death mask of a 6-foot-tall gorilla named Gargantua and a bone from the leg of a circus elephant named Alice may not suggest romance to most people. But they are pivotal to the love story of John and Jo Cook, founders of Cook’s Pest Control and a natural science museum that has enthralled schoolchildren and tourists for decades.
Although John died in 2009, Eleanor “Jo” Cook still arrives regularly at her office at Cook’s Pest Control headquarters and enjoys the fact that children love to visit Cook’s Natural Science Museum, which began with training displays of bugs and termite-riddled wood and evolved into a place for children to learn about all kinds of wildlife and wildlife habitats.
The museum, which John stipulated should always offer free admission, includes a theater that shows a film of the history of the collection. Visitors can learn about nature by viewing exhibits of taxidermied wildlife, the intimidating skulls of hippos and rhinos, minerals and gems, and, of course, lots of insects.
Allison Fleming, who works at Cooks Natural Science Museum in Decatur, poses with a leg bone from Alice, an Asian elephant who performed in circuses. (Kelly Kazek/kkazek@al,com)
Located at 412 13th Street SE, the museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, closed for lunch from noon to 1 p.m., and from 2 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Call 256-350-9347 for information.
In addition to the bust of Gargantua and Alice’s leg bone, two of the most unique exhibits are of a bald eagle and a golden eagle, which are federally protected birds.
A description of the museum at cookspest.com states: “Cook’s Natural Science Museum is one of the few private museums in the United States authorized by the federal government to include eagle exhibits in their collection. Rarer still is the fact that Cook’s Museum is one of the few museums in the U.S. to display both a bald eagle and a golden eagle.”