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…

mural
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.

rafflesia
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! 

titan-arum
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…

plants
Some well-preserved Herbarium sheets

black-poplar-mushroom
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”.

dinos
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

dinos2
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

dodo
Model of the Dodo – sadly hunted to extinction

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

turtle-anatomy
Oh my goodness!!! A cut up Reeve’s Turtle!

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

nesting-birds
Unidentified nestling birds…

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

basket-star
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…

venus's-flower-basket
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…

bobtail-squid
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…

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

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

whip-spider
Whip Spider

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

butterflies
Moths and butterflies

lantern-bug
Lantern Bug! Tisu Boy love them!

lantern-bug2
Gorgeous!

green-flying-stick-necroscia-inflata
I prefer the stick insect – so pretty like wearing a dress!

sticks
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
Dead Leaf Mantis! So evil-looking yet so intriguing! 😀

cicada
Many kinds of cicadas too!

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

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

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

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

turtles
Turtles! 

impressed-tortoise
This small one is called Impressed Tortoise! Impressive or not? 😀

black-marsh-turtle
Black Marsh Turtle

reptile
An overview of the reptilian section

reptiles1
Reptiles….The snakes in jars look like those medicinal snake wine from some Asian countries…hahaha

croc
Croc hatchling…

lizard-embryo
Lizard embryo…wonder which species….

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

birds
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

orang
A sad-looking Orangutan…

orangs
A family of Orangutans with a skeleton reflection on the glass

skeleton
Skeletons of a human and a Bornean Orangutan

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

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

tapir
And this Malayan Tapir family

malayan-tapir
Skull of the tapir

koala
The marsupial that Australia loaned to the Singapore Zoo – Koala

dolphin
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.

toger
Close up of a tiger skin

leatherback
Leatherback Turtle

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

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

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

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

cream-squirrel
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.

whale
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….

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

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

guard
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…

run-for-life
That same Monitor Lizard quickly moved further up when he saw the family….

run2
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… 😀 All the monitor lizards today were extra-large size, so it was comical to see them running away from the cute otters…hahah

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

6
I
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!

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

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

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

toss-big-fish
A BIG Fish!

toss
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!

toss3
Papa seemed to be teaching the young ones how to toss the fish…

toss2
Splash! “Yippee! Is the fish ready for us to eat?!” The Otters were getting so excited you could hear them making so much noise!

gimme4
“Papa! I want! I want!”

gimme3
“Papa! Gimme! Gimme!”

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

gimme2
But young one refused to obey…”Gimme some!”

nom-nom
“Nom Nom! Learn how to catch your own fish, Young Man!” 😀

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

guard2
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….

curious
“Bro, why do these human like to make so much noise?” 😀

gimme
Let’s go find a quieter spot!”

munch
Munch….

Soon all followed and ran up..

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

gone
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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