When the Hunters Became the Hunted – Hunters & Collectors

August 14, 2009 at 2:09 pm | Posted in itchy mouth | 1 Comment
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In the late 19th century, expeditions were often organised by explorers, nautralists, businessmen and missionaries to the Southeast Asian region. The latest exhibition at the Asian Civilisation Museum (ACM) features more than 300 artefacts by six of these collectors during their many trips. Many of their collections made their way to the then Raffles Library & Museum (the present National Museum of Singapore), the first museum in Singapore. Established in 1849, the museum was founded to study the region’s exotic flora and fauna. The Hunter & Collectors exhibition in ACM recreates the old museum with the many cabinets of rich ethnographic collection and natural history specimens; the latter were on-loan from the Zoological Reference Collection of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR).

Well, frankly speaking, it was a time when natural specimens were collected through ‘hunting’, which means that predators like tigers and leopards, the ‘hunters’ themselves, were now the ‘hunted’, by early collectors. 😦

The hunter….a leopard taken from the zoo…

The highlight of the natural specimens section must be this one…not sure if I have seen this specimen in the RMBR during my many visits there…

A leopard (panthera pardus) poised to pounce! These cats can run at speed
of around 58 km (36 miles) an hour, three times faster than an average
human being!

According to the sign, “leopards were found in Singapore at Pulau Ubin, the
MacRitchie Reservoir before 1924, and one is believed to have been shot near
Orchard Road! Although they are believed to be extinct here since WWII,
leopards have reportedly been sighted on Tekong island around 1988.”

This tiger was at the RMBR gallery…but I like the shadow cast. The teeth
looked a bit comical….haha…

This is the
False Gavial (Tomistoma schlegelii). The stockier one is the
Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), and can be seen at the Sungei
Buloh Wetland Reserves

Since some of the specimen on display were the same as those in the gallery of RMBR, we shall not show those again.

Yes, I have showed and written about these Proboscis Monkeys (Nasalis
on my last visit to RMBR. But what I did not notice was this…

..that the Proboscis has this distinctive white patch on the rear end that looks
like it is wearing a white underwear! Hahahaha….! These guys are good swimmers
and can dive underwater..er…no wonder they need the white swimming trunk..
haha…The thick brown coat looks like a vest…
8) Somehow it looks lost on
the specimen…

This is the Siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus), the largest gibbon and one
of the noisiest

The Siamang is aboreal and a vegetarian. This species was named by
Stamford Raffles

Can’t remember if this beautiful specimen was displayed at RMBR. This is
Asian Brown Tortoise (Manouria emys). The one Itchyfingers rescued at
Fraser’s Hill
should be this species… 8)

This one is so cute, with the head and limbs tucked in! 😀 According to the
sign, this is the
Pineapple Tortoise (Indotestudo elongata). I have never
heard of such a tortoise species, and thought I have seen similar ones like this…

And yes! A search online says the Pineapple Tortoise is another name for the
Elongated Tortoise. They are also known as Red-nosed Tortoise (how apt!),
Yellow Tortoise and Yellow-headed Tortoise. This sweetie is from the zoo.. 🙂

This Orange-spotted Grouper (Epinephelus coioides) must be the grumpiest
fish I have ever seen…hahah… 😀 Looks much better when it is alive…

The grumpy fish seen in the old museum in this archival photo…

Moving on, we were attracted by these beautiful drawings by Carl Alexander Gibson-Hill, a British medical doctor, naturalist, ornithologist and curator of the Raffles Museum, in the 20th century. Hmm, no wonder his depiction of the birds and animals were so accurate.

This is the Lesser Crow-Pheasant, or the Lesser Coucal (Centropus
bengalensis javanensis)
. Can’t find our picture of this bird taken in the wild…

Not too sure if this is the other name for the other Pipit found locally?

Lapwings in flight

The Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) taken in the wild

Notice how the artist used white paint to correct on the paper which had
since turned yellowish with time… :p This is the Spotted Dove (Streptopelia
, a common bird in Singapore

The ‘spots’ on the neck are actually from black tips of the white feathers.
Somehow, many malays like to keep these as pets

The Eastern Swallow, better known as the Pacific Swallow (Hirundo

Unlike Swifts, Swallows can perch and come to the ground to drink or
gather nesting material. Pacific Swallows are common in Singapore, usually
near water and open country, along the coast and also in mangroves

By far, this is the least accurate of all the drawings. This is supposed to be the
Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier)…a bit fat leh… :p

The Yellow-vented Bulbul with the newly fledged…a very common bird in

The Siamang

The Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis)

Remember Itchyfingers’ post on ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do
‘? 8)

Besides the live size specimens, there are also some in this form…

Flattened like pancake… :p This is the Sunda Colugo (Galeopterus variegatus)
or the Malayan Flying Lemur. Itchyfingers just read on the latest issue of
Nature Society’s magazine about a pair of mating colugo, which showed the
male as a brownish one and the female as the more grayish one. This brown
specimen was labelled as a male too

Can you see anything here?

Now, you can see it! The Malayan Colugo
are not related to true lemurs of
the Madagascar. These nocturnal and often well camouflaged animals have
membranes that connect their legs and tail, enabling them to glide from
tree to tree…Itchyfingers have yet to get the chance to see them glide… 😦

The greyish female with a baby… 😀

Remember the Jungle Nymph (Heteropteryx dilatata) that Itchyfingers once cut opened?

So many butterflies, some of which Itchyfingers have never seen before…
Remember the Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas) we wrote about?

The Common Birdwing (Troides helena). This specimen must have aged a lot…

..cos the life butterfly spots a bright yellow on the wings…Was so thrilled
to see this big butterfly again recently…

Nowadays, specimens are no longer acquired through the organising of expeditions…thanks goodness! 😀  Most of the newer specimens are from dead animals collected locally. Since the open house of RMBR few months ago which attracted a lot of visitors, many who were first-time visitors, vast interest in natural history was generated and discussed on the papers. It was said that plans for a new and bigger gallery space are being explored, as RMBR has so many more specimens that were only accessible to researchers. Hopefully Singapore will have a better museum for natural history very soon! In the meantime, do visit the Hunters & Collectors Exhibition at the ACM from now till 21 September, or look out for Itchyfingers’ next post for more! 😀

Also see related posts:
> Seeing Double
> Humming to the Wrong Tune – Mistaken Identities #3
> Slow But Steady – World Turtle Day
> Changing Colours – Mistaken Identities #2
> Living in Cold Blood – Mistaken Identities #1
> Snake Tales
> Monkey See, Monkey Do
> The Web Crawler
> Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
> Attaining Immortality – Body Preservation
> Life in the Mountain – Fraser’s Hill, Malaysia Trip #4


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  1. Hey, I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog!…..I”ll be checking in on a regularly now….Keep up the good work! 🙂

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