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News Americas, GLASGOW, Scotland, Tues. April 23, 2024: In a landmark collaboration, The University of the West Indies (The UWI) and the University of Glasgow (UofG) have announced the repatriation of a Jamaican Giant Galliwasp specimen from The Hunterian collection at UofG in Scotland, UK. This significant event marks the first-ever repatriation of a natural history specimen in the Caribbean, symbolizing a pivotal moment in scientific research and cultural heritage preservation.

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Zoologist Elizabeth Morrison (left) from the Institute of Jamaica (IoJ) receives the Jamaican Giant Galliwasp specimen from curator Mike Rutherford at the Hunterian Collections Study Centre in Kelvin Hall, Glasgow, ahead of its repatriation by the University of Glasgow to the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. The Jamaican giant galliwasp (Celestus occiduus) is thought to have been collected in the mid-19th century and became part of the University of Glasgow collections in 1888. Picture date: Monday April 22, 2024. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)

The joint effort, facilitated by a team comprising members from The UWI and the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ), underscores a commitment to rectify past injustices and ensure Caribbean ownership of its scientific and cultural treasures. The repatriation exercise is a tangible outcome of the 2019 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between The UWI and UofG, aimed at fostering collaboration in research and education while addressing the historical legacies of colonialism.

(left to right) Elizabeth Morrison, from the Institute of Jamaica (IoJ), Dr Shani Roper from Univeristy of West Indies (UWI), Desireina Delancy from UWI, Curator Mike Rutherford from The Hunterian, Dionne Newell from the IoJ and Dr Tannice Hall from the UWI with the Jamaican Giant Galliwasp specimen at the Hunterian Collections Study Centre in Kelvin Hall, Glasgow, ahead of its repatriation by the University of Glasgow to the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. The Jamaican giant galliwasp (Celestus occiduus) is thought to have been collected in the mid-19th century and became part of the University of Glasgow collections in 1888. Picture date: Monday April 22, 2024. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)

The Galliwasp, believed to be extinct, will return to its homeland, Jamaica, after being collected in the 1850s. Accompanied by a joint team from The UWI and IOJ, the specimen will be deposited in the Natural History Museum of Jamaica on permanent loan, ensuring its accessibility to all Jamaicans.

A drawing of the Jamaican Giant Galliwasp (Celestus occiduus) from Sir Hans Sloane, 1725, in A voyage to the islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, St. Christophers and Jamaica. (UofG image)

Upon the specimen’s return to Jamaica, an official handover ceremony will be held as it will be deposited in the Natural History Museum of Jamaica on permanent loan in the national flora and fauna collection for safekeeping and allowing it to be accessible to all Jamaicans.

Members of the public are invited to stay tuned to follow the repatriation journey of the Jamaican Giant Galliwasp from Scotland to its homeland.

This initiative reflects ongoing strategic collaborations between The UWI and UofG, including the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research (GCCDR) and the joint Masters Programme in Reparatory Justice. The repatriation of the Galliwasp signifies a commitment to social justice and cultural equity, highlighting the importance of addressing historical injustices and fostering greater understanding of repatriation issues in the museum sector.

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