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A TAXIDERMIST and amateur paleontologist is bringing to life his childhood fascination with dinosaurs by creating a life- size animatronic exhibition of the prehistoric creatures.
Marvin Carstens, 45, is the brain behind the new dinosaur exhibition which forms part of Bayworld's multimillion-rand renovation.
Carstens, who is also an industrial technician, aims to recreate a The Lost World: Jurassic Park look which Bayworld's officials hope will revive the once popular facility.
He said his interest in dinosaurs started at an early age as he grew up near the complex in Humewood.
"As a child, I had an absolute fascination with dinosaurs. The few books that were around in those days, I would get my hands on them as soon as possible if I could afford it. But in those days there were no toys about dinosaurs. So I did the next best thing: I made my own dinosaurs," he said.
"I lived up the road from the museum in those days, and back then entrance was free. So I spent basically all my spare time in the museum, looking at all the exhibits."
His parents often told him he would grow out of his hobby.
"But that never happened. As a child I always thought to myself that paleontology is such an immersible experience, but the paleontologists of that time made no effort to popularise it. That was until Jurassic Park came out, then it just skyrocketed," Carstens said.
"From making my own amateur toys, it progressed to model-making."
Carstens, who also had a stint at the University of Witwatersrand's paleontology department, then approached fine artist Kim Lieth who introduced him to Bayworld museum's taxidermist, Gerard Smith.
"I presented my models to him [Smith] who ... showed it to the head of display Nielen Schaefer. Nielen was basically over the moon when he saw my work and offered me a half-day job on the spot."
That was almost 20 years ago and now Carstens is creating the robotic dinosaurs which will transport Bayworld visitors to a prehistoric world.
The R10-million renovations also include revitalized gardens, new paving and painting, and upgrades of the boundary walls.
Construction is already under way with the penguin, seal and aquarium facilities being upgraded, with repairs to the snake park still on the cards.
Renovations are expected to be complete by the end of May.