In Loving Memory of Baby Dou Dou (25 March 1993 – 4 May 2015)

May 6, 2015 at 11:46 pm | Posted in itchy fingers | Leave a comment

Monday 4th May
The darkest and most tragic day for Itchyfingers.

After battling illness for more than a month, my precious darling Dou Dou 豆豆, also known as Baby, left us in the early morning of 4th May. He had just passed his 22nd birthday.

Dou Dou was the first Red-eared Slider turtle that my sister brought home in 1993. He arrived in our family as a small little baby on the 25 March, so I decided to make that his birthday. Three days later, he was joined by his sister, Mei Mei 妹妹, who had passed away seven years ago… :( Subsequently, my parents brought back Mr Mark and Girl Girl, into our family. Baby sliders are simply too adorable to resist bringing home…

Dou Dou was the most timid among my four turtles, and also the sweetest of all. I used to put him on my tummy for afternoon naps on the cool marbled floor cos he was the only one that would not panic and attempt to jump down…probably he was too timid to do that. Maybe the rhythmic up-down movement of my breathing made him drowsy, as many times I would wake up to find the cute boy sleeping too…

There was once he was out walking around the room, anxiously scratching with his front legs and standing only on his back legs trying to get out from the closed door. Suddenly he made a loud and alarmed hissing sound as his tummy landed harshly on the ground. Then, he quickly hid underneath the chair, all limbs tucked inside his shell. Upon checking on him, I found that he had snapped one of his front claws against the metal door stopper! The tiny claw was still stuck there. A bit of blood was oozing out from his hand (I like to refer their front limbs as hands) and I SWEAR his eyes were wet! It must had been so painful and traumatised for the timid boy!

Like all growing adolescents, Dou Dou loved to tease Mei Mei with his sexy long claws doing his pre-mating dance. Unlike the naughtier Mr Mark who started displaying typical aggressive behaviors in boys, Dou Dou was never a bully even though he was bigger size. He was such a sweet boy, never bit Mei Mei when she showed no interest to mate, and never showed territorial behaviour towards Mr Mark.

But he was also one fussy eater. Sometimes he would happily eat what was offered to him, be it veggies or his favourite fruits or little fish and prawns. But sometimes, after eating the same thing for two or three days, he would eat less or reject them. So I had to constantly change the menu to make it interesting. But this made detecting if he was unwell a bit difficult, as you would not be sure if he was just fussy over the freshness of the food or if he was not feeling well…

It could be due to age, or maybe the symptoms of sickness gradually showed itself? In recent years, I found myself bringing my turtles to the vet more regularly. For Girl Girl, most of the time it would be egg-laying problems, and for the boys, either abrasion or respiratory problem. Maybe it was also because I finally found a vet that is supposed to be more experienced with reptiles to seek help from without much delay.

Dou Dou was brought to the vet a couple of times for some early respiratory infection and eating problems. We also found the flesh near his hind legs getting a bit bulging. I thought it was because he was getting a little fat there. But x-rays showed that his lungs seemed to be not very well-developed, a result of a slight deformed shell. When I heard that, I felt so bad…When they were smaller, the four of them stayed together, and later lived separately as they got bigger. But even after separation, the housing size was still not so ideal due to space and budget constraints back then. As with Mei Mei, I didn’t know that poor housing would lead to deformed shells…and Dou Dou’s shell was pretty normal until much later that it gradually began to cave in slightly in the middle. But any deformity is not good, so that probably affected the internal organs’ development. With a slightly smaller lung capacity, many factors may trigger into a big problem. But each time after injections of antibiotics and multi-vitamins, my Baby seemed to get well and started eating again.

But not this time.

In March after we got back from a short trip, Dou Dou started picking his food again. So I got him fresh fish and then prawns to bring back his appetite. But after about few days of seafood, he rejected them again. Also, he was getting a bit lethargic and his left forelimb seemed to be in pain and paralyzed at times. Dou Dou has always been the quieter and shy of all. But recent years, he seemed to be more so….sometimes he would just stay on the dock and not go into the water, and when brought out, he only moved a little and stayed on the same spot for hours. I thought maybe as he grew older, he became less active, although the other two were the complete opposite. But this time, he was so lethargic… After three days of not eating, I brought him to the vet.

23 March
X-rays did not show any lung infection. Anti-biotic Baytril was prescribed just in case, plus Multi-vitamin with calcium jabs for not eating.

30 March
Still not eating. I tried every kind of food, even soaking him in carrot juice and fish soup hoping he would at least drink and take in some nutrients. But he just got so weak…The vet showed me how to force feed a special prescriptive critical care canned food for dogs and cats with a syringe. “Critical care” made me very worried. I couldn’t remember if I was the one who pushed in the syringe myself or was it with the vet’s help…was too nervous…Had to show Tisu Boy video of the vet’s demo and asked him to do the force feeding while I try to open his mouth. It was really painful to have to hold down his neck and try to force open the mouth, and then stick the whole syringe inside to pump in the dog food. The first few times was still manageable, as Dou Dou was too weak to resist. But it was still hard to repeat the procedure more than twice to get more food into his tummy, as he would also regurgitate some out. I continued hand feeding him, sometimes spending as long as an hour coaxing him to eat. He did try to bite, but was too weak to open his mouth big enough to get food in…

10 April
Baby’s neck looked more swollen, and he seemed to be in pain with bouts of contraction, as if he was constipated and trying very hard to poo…Rushed him to another vet as the first vet was on leave and the clinic was much further for us to make it in time before it closed.

The second vet saw him, and immediately said his swollen neck and puffy eyes may be caused by edema, or water retention. The reason for edema may be many – either caused by heart, liver or kidney problems. My heart sank when I heard this. He recommended a blood test to try to find out more, but was frank to tell us that he has not done it before other than for cats and dogs. Blood was withdrawn from Dou Dou’s tail…so poor thing…The vet tried comparing the result with some reference table, and after eliminating some causes, he said that it might be possibly a heart problem, though he couldn’t be 100% sure, as edema is a symptom of many complicated diseases. But not eating means not getting enough protein and that was why he got his edema. He suggested putting on a feeding tube to make sure Dou Dou gets the necessary amount of food instead of syringe feeding as he would regurgitate some out. But we didn’t wanna put him through that and would rather continue to try to force feed….He was also given some diuretic to help him pass out urine to help with the edema, and we were supposed to come back for a review in a week’s time.

11 April
Baby took a small piece of veggy. I was so so happy!!!!

12 April
Baby took a bigger piece of papaya after another round of long coaxing. I was over the moon! But then at night he stopped eating again. By now I have depleted all my ideas of different food source…

15 April
Syringe feeding continued, though I did not give up my hand feeding. We tried those little dried shrimp for turtles, something he had not tried before and to my greatest delight he ate quite a fair amount of the dried shrimps the first time he was offered them!!!!!

16 April
Poor Baby didn’t eat again. Also, he was getting wary of the procedure of force feeding, and would start to push the syringe with his tongue. Not wanting to hurt him by forcing the syringe in, it was getting more difficult to get more food into the stomach…Water retention seemed to have subsided a little with diuretic…his neck was less swollen but the puffiness around the ‘shoulder’ area and the fatty flesh at the back legs were still there…Left hand got better. He had not poop for many days too. Either not enough food to produce waste or constipated?

18 April
In the end, we had no choice but to agree to try the tube feeding as the vet said he would use the less invasive method of inserting the tube directing through the mouth into the tummy instead of through a hole in the neck. He got a little stitch on the skin of his neck to hold on to the tube in case he tried to rub it out with his hands…Really heartbreaking. Gotta go back to the clinic to fix his tube for leakage and realigning it to prevent blocking his nose the next two days. I stopped working to look after him as he had to be tube fed four or five times a day to make sure he got enough food. It was really painful experience to go through….He looked really uncomfortable with the feeding tube in the mouth. :(

23 April
What was that smell? Dou Dou finally pooped! I was hoping that he lost his appetite cos of constipation..But it was only solid waste on the first day, the subsequent days were all watery stools….

24 April
Swelling got slightly better but vet suggested leaving the tube in to make sure he got strong enough before removing it and see if he could eat on his own. Otherwise if we were to remove too early, we might have to put it back again…Still having watery stools. Was told maybe to stop diuretic or reduce dosage.

27 April
Did he suffer from diarrhea or was it normal to have watery stool since he was on liquid diet? His right hand started to swell up…

30 April
As if Dou Dou had not suffer enough….I was shocked when I saw a maggot crawling on his neck in the morning!!!!! Didn’t see any more until feeding at night and we pulled out and killed at least a dozen!!!! Vet was not in the clinic on Thursdays. He was the only one in the clinic that had some experience with turtle and it had to be a public holiday the next day!!!!

1 May
No clinic was opened, so we had to endure and keep checking for more maggots while applying Betadine to disinfect a little sore patch we found on the underside of his neck. We were hoping that this was the cause of not eating since it would be a much easier problem to deal with…

2 May
Went back to the vet. No more maggots and we were right to disinfect with Betadine. They did a faecal sampling as Dou Dou pooped watery stool again. No virus or bacteria and he was given an oral dosage of Flagyl Metronidazole for his gut problem. The tube was still kept since he couldn’t go into the water with the sore there. I was really hoping that the tube could be taken off after two weeks but this had to happen….

3 May
Feeding continued. But I found his mouth getting more foamy at times, and twice I saw foams from the nose. All this while, occasionally Dou Dou’s mouth would get wet, not sure was that his saliva (some people in the turtle group said they have no saliva?) or was it liquid from the gut or food…Each time I would wipe it with tissue. But today I was worried when I saw foams from the nose. He also seemed to be breathing a bit harder a couple of times. He had been dry-docking since he got the tube, so I really didn’t think it could be respiratory infection. It was Sunday and again the vet won’t be around until Tuesday. I thought I would monitor more closely first. No more foams after that….

4 May
4 plus in the morning. I was waken up by my mum. Rushed out to check on Dou Dou and was shocked to find him not moving at all!!!!! Before we went to sleep we did check on him. His eyes were still looking my way. The poor boy, apparently left not too long ago cos he didn’t feel stiff but the saddest thing was that his eyes were still half-opened! Did he want to take a last look at his Sister one more time before leaving us? I was devastated…I thought of all the sufferings he had to endure, and the pain he must had felt when he took his last breath….it really pained me….Why did my Baby have to suffer so much and for so long? What happened? What caused him to pass away? What caused him to get the disease, whichever it was? Would things have been different if we had consulted back the first vet for a second opinion? Did I cause him to suffer due to negligence in any way? Why didn’t I insist on removing the tube so my Baby could at least feel a little more comfortable in his last hours?

I sat there crying….I touched his little face, his shell, his little hands, his little swollen legs and tail…He had such smooth skin for a reptile…I tried to close his eyes with tissue paper but couldn’t…Heart wrenching…I must had cried until the sun came up…

Together with Tisu Boy, we sent him to the clinic to get his tube removed. My poor baby’s mouth could not be closed now that the muscles had stiffened up…His eyes were still opened, and he really looked in pain when he left…The poor boy was now limp after removing the tub that supported his neck to his body…I couldn’t stop crying….Tisu Boy said we should let my Baby rest in peace, cremate him and bring his ash back home, instead of repeating what we did for Mei Mei – buried her and constantly worried if she would be dug out. But it was so, so hard to say the final good-bye.

(For friends who have been following Itchyfingers, we had since dug out MeiMei’s remains and cremated her cos we thought the land was to be taken over. Her little urn is now sitting in my bedroom cupboard)

When I asked Tisu Boy what date it was, he told me 4th May. I couldn’t believe it.

It was the SAME day Mei Mei left us seven years ago.

Was it coincidence? Was it predestined?

In Chinese, couples always say this, “不能同年同月同日生,但愿同年同月同日死” (translates as “not born on the same year, same month, same day; I hope we can die on the same year, same month, same day) Did Mei Mei decide to take Baby with her to Turtle Paradise on this same day?

For Itchyfingers…it was just…

A most tragic day. Seven years apart.

Dou Dou was my favourite… :(

Baby piggy ridding Mei Mei when they were younger….Such angelic face….

Baby, my sweet honey pie….Sister爱你,Sister永远爱你!

A Peek Into the Past – Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

April 28, 2015 at 10:38 pm | Posted in itchy mouth | Leave a comment
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Last week, Itchyfingers were among some of those who were invited to a special preview of the new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum prior to its official opening today, 28 April, in appreciation of our little contribution. The museum has come a long way – possibly dating back to when Singapore was founded. It was last known as the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity and Research (RMBR), which only had a small gallery nestled in one of the obscure Science Block at the University, and was greatly in need of an overhaul and expansion. So it was indeed a good news to finally have a brand new building to house a proper viewing gallery, as well as facilities for its scientists and researchers.

Once you entered the new building at the National University of Singapore, visitors were welcomed by a huge wall mural made from photo collage of the specimens on exhibit…

Part of the mural. Very nice, colourful and vibrant – injecting some life into the otherwise ‘dead’ exhibits…

The highlights of the museum are three much talked-about diplodocid sauropod skeletons, nicknamed “Prince”, “Apollonia” and “Twinky”. Each of them is about 80% complete, making them a rarity in dinosaur discoveries. They were the first thing you would see once you entered the gallery behind a glass wall. But you would have to maneuver your way through the plants section before you could come close to them.

A model of the Rafflesia flower, something Itchyfingers are dying to see in the wild…The unisexual flower may reach over a meter in diameter and weigh over 10kg! 

Another smelly flower that we want to see too! This is a model of the Titan Arum, the “largest unbranched inflorescence in the world, reaching over 3meters in height. The inflorescence blooms at night, releasing an odour of rotting meat that attracts carrion-eating beetles and flies to pollinate it”. Few years back, our Botanical Garden had one, but it kinda withered prematurely, hence we didn’t have the chance to experience the rotting smell…

Some well-preserved Herbarium sheets

Some interesting fungi on display. These are Black Poplar Mushroom

From the ground floor main gallery, we could see the dinosaur skeletons, which are considered a rarity for sauropod dinosaurs fossils as two of them come with skulls. These three skeletons were found between 2007 and 2010 in a quarry in a small town of Ten Sleep in the United States and are believed to be part of a herd or even a family. According to reports, the “American sellers had asked for $8 million but the Museum would not say what the final deal was”.

These dinosaurs, acquired through donated funds, are to be the main attraction of the main gallery – to showcase the diversity and history of life on Earth

The museum believes that, “as one of the largest animals ever to live on the planet, they are an excellent showpiece to demonstrate extinction events and how life has evolved.”

Not a great fan of dinosaurs, I wasn’t really excited to see the trios though… :p Despite having a new building, somehow, the space available for displaying the trio still feels very small and cramp. I was expecting to be able to really stand further to look at the sheer size of them. To make up for the lack of space, visitors can still view them from the second floor though. There is a light show at regular intervals but personally I thought it was a bit meaningless and doesn’t add any value to the exhibit. :p

Model of the Dodo – sadly hunted to extinction

What attracted Tisu Boy’s attention? I love this display!

Oh my goodness!!! A cut up Reeve’s Turtle!

This Bornean Frogs looks like it’s dancing….Are those eggs on the tummy?

Unidentified nestling birds…

Ahhhh…finally see a real Mud Lobster….albeit a dead one…Well…it was once alive! :O

Beautiful Basket Star….This specimen has a “100” icon next to the name. Does that mean it is 100 or more years old? Can’t find the legend to the icon…

Beautiful Venus’s Flower Basket

I like the way they displayed these specimens in nice glass jars and arranged neatly on the shelf. But the names of the specimen were put too far at the extreme left, so whenever you need to find out the name, you have to walk all the way to the left. Why don’t they just label it below? It’s easier to change single labels if they want to change the exhibits, rather than to change the whole panel right? I also don’t really like the tv screen in the middle. Don’t think it is interactive cos no one seems to be touching it…

The squids and octopuses specimens were a letdown after looking at the beautiful set ups earlier. This Bobtail Squid could have been made more attractive if only they could spread out the tentacles and make it look as it was floating in the jar, like the frog above…

So nice. Rare-spined Murex (26), Branched Murex (27) and Venus Comb Murex (28)

Heart Cockles. I have seen photos of them that are brighter in colour…

Whip Spider

Horsehoe Crabs are actually related to spiders and scorpions, that’s why they are put together

Moths and butterflies

Lantern Bug! Tisu Boy love them!


I prefer the stick insect – so pretty like wearing a dress!

From left: Cantor’s Stick Insects – bigger female and smaller male (8) and their eggs (9). Right: Malayan Jungle Nymph (10) – fatter green female and male with wings opened; and their bigger eggs

Dead Leaf Mantis! So evil-looking yet so intriguing! :D

Many kinds of cicadas too!

For prawn lovers…The huge one is the Tiger Prawn, widely reared for food

Red Frog Crab. Funny looking. The live one is really red in colour!

Check out the many sea urchin skeletons….look like a pin cushion….

How can I missed this Orange-spotted Grouper! Such a big fish! But luckily I saw it at an earlier exhibition some time ago


This small one is called Impressed Tortoise! Impressive or not? :D

Black Marsh Turtle

An overview of the reptilian section

Reptiles….The snakes in jars look like those medicinal snake wine from some Asian countries…hahaha

Croc hatchling…

Lizard embryo…wonder which species….

Cast of Archaeopteryx “Berlin Specimen”. Discovered around 1875, it was the second one found and first with a complete head

The birds specimen were quite a disappointment as most of them were in the “satay stick” form and not preserved in standing or flying position

A sad-looking Orangutan…

A family of Orangutans with a skeleton reflection on the glass

Skeletons of a human and a Bornean Orangutan

Some of the mammal specimens like the Sun Bear family was quite nicely presented, showing the way they live

And showed the colour and pattern variation between the young and adult, like this Wild Boar family

And this Malayan Tapir family

Skull of the tapir

The marsupial that Australia loaned to the Singapore Zoo – Koala

The Humpbacked Dolphin skull looked so funny

The Heritage Gallery is located at the upper floor with five exhibit zones that pay homage to the museum heritage. The gallery presents an account of the museum’s development and traces the relationship between Singapore’s development and natural history.

Close up of a tiger skin

Leatherback Turtle

The Heritage Gallery’s layout is intentionally styled like an old-school museum with specimens on display in dark wooden cabinets.

Don’t be scared by some of them….wahahah

You can check out the cabinets and drawers for more exhibits and information

Nice display of the Bird-of-Paradise and the Babirusa with illustrations

Tisu Boy’s contribution – a printed copy of his painting of this Cream-coloured Giant Squirrel sits in one of the cabinets

Itchyfingers spent less than 2 hours in the museum, a rather short time for our liking cos our free and easy tour started about 3.50 pm. Our tummies were beginning to make noise so we had to cut short our visit. Was a little disappointed that they didn’t put up more specimens for exhibit. Hopefully there will either be rotating exhibits or new ones will be added later, or even better still, new gallery space will be created in the 7-storey building. There are many more interesting specimens not featured here and if you are really interested in plants, animals and natural history, a visit to the new the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum is definitely highly recommended! Check their website for ticketing details, as you can’t just pop by any time you wish and get tickets on the spot! A little inconvenient, but let’s see if they will adjust this later on.

Nice way of presenting the founding benefactors

Also see related posts:
> The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity and Research
> Hunters & Collectors – The Origins of the SouthEast Asian Collection

An “Otterly” Exciting Morning

April 21, 2015 at 11:08 pm | Posted in itchy mouth | 2 Comments
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Just about 20 minutes into my run, which I had to drag myself to do it this morning, I saw some people crowding around the fence of the canal. Running closer, I saw what made them stop their usual morning activities. I had overheard a walker telling her friend about it. I was really surprised to know that. Afterall, this is not a beautiful park with nice water bodies but a sometimes-very-dirty canal behind some private houses. But I have since then been hoping to see it for myself. Today, I finally saw them here! Otters!! Smooth-coated Otters! It was quite a while ago since Itchyfingers last saw otters. What made this so special was that, there were a pair of adults and three youngsters!!! Just the other day, someone reported of a sighting of a family of five at the Bishan-Ang Moh Kio Park. Was actually thinking of paying the why-so-far-from-my-house park a visit this coming weekend cos we have never seen wild young otters. And here, Itchyfingers was seeing for herself a family of five right at her territory! Wahahah!!! Now, I wonder if it was the same family of five? Would they swim that far here? While the family were running around the opposite bank of the canal, the resident Gray-headed Fish Eagle suddenly swooped down out from nowhere towards the family before perching onto one of his favourite trees! Gave me a shock cos I thought he wanted to attack the young ones! Maybe he did, but changed his mind seeing how cute they were? Haha… Gotta count myself lucky for bringing my mobile phone along today… After trying for some “otterly” lousy shots, I called Tisu Boy, still in his Slumberland. Had to send him my blur shot and keep harping him to rush over. I was hoping the family would swim nearer so I could shoot a better photo. Again, the Fish Eagle flew down from his perch to the water further away from the family and landed near the bank. I think he might have caught and lose something cos it was the first time I saw him landed on the ground for a few seconds before flying off onto another perch. A huge Water Monitor Lizard also came to join in the fun and swam towards the Otters, but he made a big detour before climbing up the bank. Luckily the parents were around, otherwise there might be casualty…. I waited for about 10-15 minutes before my photographer arrived. Minutes before he came, I lost sight of them! Otters are strong swimmers and can hold their breath for very long time under water. Luckily he brought along the binoculars so I managed to find one small little head…Then, something romantic happened….

Papa and Mama Otters having some intimate moments….”Dear, I love how fishy your breath smell…”

As if sensing someone peeping them, they separated, with one giving the “stunned vegetable” look… :D

One of the parents stood up high to look for the youngsters… Then the parents started swimming…Some young otters popped out from nowhere and followed the parents…

That same Monitor Lizard quickly moved further up when he saw the family….

It was funny cos not just this particular lizard scurried away from the otters, another one even swam up frantically when they approached! Must be shocked at the size of the family… :D All the monitor lizards today were extra-large size, so it was comical to see them running away from the cute otters…hahah

Eventually the whole family climbed up for a run…Could finally have a shot of the five of them!

tchyfingers couldn’t believe it when we saw another little one joining them! So now we have a big family of six!!! This is definitely not the same family spotted at the other park!

They seemed to have spotted something among the grass….Is it dangerous?!

Ahhh, another big Monitor Lizard….Outnumbered, the reptile obviously couldn’t do anything

“Let’s ignore him! Look what Papa has got!”

A BIG Fish!

It was the first time Itchyfingers saw an otter with such a huge fish! Boy, I didn’t know my smelly longkang (canal) has such big fishes!

Papa seemed to be teaching the young ones how to toss the fish…

Splash! “Yippee! Is the fish ready for us to eat?!” The Otters were getting so excited you could hear them making so much noise!

“Papa! I want! I want!”

“Papa! Gimme! Gimme!”

But Papa seemed to be ignoring the young ones. Maybe he just wanted them to learn the tricks and hunt for themselves?

But young one refused to obey…”Gimme some!”

“Nom Nom! Learn how to catch your own fish, Young Man!” :D

Persistence finally paid off! Papa relented and gave them the fish….Feeding frenzy…

Was that the mummy keeping an eye for predators while the young ones enjoyed their brekky?

We observed and followed them when they swam. More people stopped when they heard the noisy family. One uncle stopped by and talked to us. Though friendly, he was a little bit loud, probably cos of deteriorating hearing…Not sure if that affected the feasting mood of the otter family, they started to move out of the water again…with their fish….

“Bro, why do these human like to make so much noise?” :D

Let’s go find a quieter spot!”


Soon all followed and ran up..

Does this look like they were posing for photo for the one standing up? Hahah…

Finally gone into the woods to enjoy the rest of the fishy meal….

That ended Itchyfingers’ “otterly” exciting morning! Hopefully the family will be here to stay!

Also see related posts:

> Close Encounter with An Otter
Star Appearance at the Wetland
Smooth Sailors at the Wetland

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