The collection of large African animals is an integral part of the Museum's history. The building in Bernastrasse that houses the Museum today was built by the Burgher Community of Bern especially to display the over one hundred animals which big game hunter Bernard von Wattenwyl had shot in the course of two hunting safaris to East Africa in 1923-24. The dioramas transport the observer to the African plains and jungle forests, and do an extraordinary job of bringing these habitats to life. The quality of the specimens and the way in which they were presented formed the basis of the Museum's international reputation back in the day, and the fascination of the dioramas, which now have protected heritage status, has not faded in the slightest.
The collection is also closely tied up with the gripping story of Vivienne von Wattenwyl, who was just twenty-four when her father (having already bagged eighteen lions) was fatally injured by the nineteenth. The young woman continued with the safari regardless, even going on to claim a male white rhino as a trophy of her own. Vivienne wrote about her experiences in two books which were received enthusiastically by readers including Ernest Hemmingway. Her story also forms the basis of the historical novel «Die Tochter des Jägers» (The Hunter's Daughter) by Swiss author Lukas Hartmann.