Singapore’s wild side

With the new alcohol law there might be less wildness, but of course, I’m not talking about inebriated homo sapiens. As a developed country, it’s our biodiversity (plant and animal life) we should be showing an interest in.

Isn’t it funny that while our island is named after the majestic lion (singa) supposedly spotted by Sang Nila Utama, it’s more likely the Javanese prince saw a tiger?  Hence, if he had identified the animal correctly, Singapore would be Harimaupura, maybe anglicised to Harrypore in honour of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, or even Tiggerpore. How would you like to be a Harryporean or Harimauean?

If you visit the recently opened Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at NUS (National University of Singapore), you won’t see any stuffed lions because lions are not native to our part of the world. So, while our football team and various clubs are named in honour of the king of beasts, and the barfing Merlion is our icon, we’re lyin’ about our lion links. The truth is, the nearest natural lion habitat is in India (Gujarat).

While Singapore was part of tiger territory, sadly, our last tiger was killed in the 1930s, leaving us with just beer and an airline as reminders. But as you’ll discover, there are many more wild critters in the limited natural spaces we have, eg graceful gliders like flying dragons, birds and small mammals.

See for yourself at the museum most famous for its three Jurassic Age diplodocid sauropod dinosaur skeletons. The longest dinosaurs of all have tiny heads on necks that snake on and on. To get a decent photo, take a shot from the upper floor. Imagine one of these running towards you, chased by a T-rex!

As more of a museum- than a mall-fan, visiting the newish museum was my Mother’s Day outing. My son couldn’t be prised away from the insect section – he’s into insect taxidermy and happily provided a running commentary. He was disappointed there wasn’t enough on ants, his favourite anthropod.

As pictures speak better than words, here’re visuals for the ones who have yet to see the natural side of Singapore.

At the entrance is a mandala. Get up close to see the birds.

museum mural 3

Dinosaurs with the unlikely pet names of Prince, Appollonia and Twinky.

museum top 2

This prehistoric fish, the coelacanth (pronounced SEEL-uh-kanth) was believed to have gone extinct along with dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But one was caught in 1938 and since then, more of these endangered dinosaur fish have been sighted.

museum coelacanth

Birds are lovely and should be flying free. They weren’t given wings to be caged.

museum stuffed birds

The colours, the wings … Butterflies are Mother Nature’s delicate works of art, as are some insects. Cockroaches I can do without.

museum butterflies

Frog, sea mouse (a marine worm) with gold quills, turtle, coral and all kinds of close-ups we’ll only see in a museum.

museum frog 2museum sea mousemuseum turtl

We are family. All humans belong to the same species. There used to be other species but they went extinct, and at the rate we fight each other, we might soon disappear too.

museum skulls

Before Darwin, there was Alfred Russel Wallace. Although his theory of evolution by natural selection predated the findings of Charles Darwin’s, he was trumped on the basis of qualifications. However, Wallace is coming into his own now, and we have a section at the museum devoted to him alongside Sir Stamford Raffles and his contributions as an amateur naturalist. Here’s the American monyet (monkey) discovered by Raffles.

museum Raffles monyetmuseum Raffles

The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum is open Tues-Suns, 10am-7pm (last admission at 5.30pm). Book through SISTIC, tel. 6348 5555.

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