Media Coverage of the Sperm Whale Found off Jurong Island

Missed the media coverage of our conservation efforts on the sperm whale?

Here is a compilation of the media coverage on the sperm whale so far!

Straits Times 2015-07-11Zaobao 2015-07-12

©Straits Times                                        ©Lianhe Zaobao

ZB 01082015Wanbao 2015-07-15

©Lianhe Zaobao                                                        ©Lianhe Wanbao

Straits Times 2015-07-16Today 01082015 Museum hopes donors will make a whale of a difference

©Straits Times                                                            ©Today

Straits Times 2015-07-15 Wanbao 12072015

©Straits Times                                            ©Lianhe Wanbao

Today 18072015


Copyright of the articles belong to the respective media outlets.

Online news content:

Dead sperm whale found near Jurong Island

Dead whale could take ‘several weeks’ to dissect: Museum

Dead sperm whale was a female adult: NUS research team

‘Good progress’ in dissecting sperm whale carcass

Whale carcass found in Singapore: S$1m drive for preservation

Museum hopes donors will make a whale of a difference

Dead sperm whale was adult female: Museum

Dead whale could take ‘several weeks’ to dissect: Museum

Carcass of sperm whale found near Jurong Island

Sperm whale found beached at Jurong Island

Dead whale named ‘The Singapore Whale’ by Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Researchers race against time to dissect sperm whale carcass that washed up at Jurong Island

Whale of a find

ST: How to educate your children

A trip to the history museum opens new vistas for kids but is it all a little too much?

by Clara Chow

ST Illustration by Adam Lee

Wake up on a Sunday, convinced you have to do something educational with your children. Trawl websites for ideas.

Decide to go to Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. Buy tickets online and print them out while still wearing your pyjamas.

Drag children, groaning, out of the house. Drive to the museum. Find it because it looks like a giant lump of moss-covered clay. Beat a beat-up Mazda to a prime parking space. Whole family cheers.

Hang out at the eco-roof garden until your allotted time of entry. Wrestle with the museum’s official app. Point out mangrove plants in the garden, the spores on the underside of fern leaves and fish fry in the ponds. Natter on.

Look up, and realise that the kids are squinting at their father’s iPhone screen in the bright sunlight. Throw a fit.

Go back downstairs; go through the turnstiles. Feel a slight sense of urgency: Everything must be examined in less than two hours, before your time is up.

Battle other parents to lift the almost-six-year-old up to the eye pieces of microscopes to look at bacteria. Keep opening your mouth to pontificate about fungi and molluscs. Keep stopping in mid-sentence, when you realise your kids have run off. Look sheepishly at strangers.

Give up and, alone, examine the bank of creatures preserved in jars along a back-lit wall. Marvel at sea whips, daisy sponges, fat-armed jellyfish and a Reeve’s turtle – long dead, and suspended in chemicals and time. Gawk and shudder a little at worm specimens.

Flit back and forth between display case and wall captions – a busy bee soaking up facts. You are taller than most of the kids crowding around but you feel eight again. You remember the excitement of school excursions, the thrill of looking at something other than textbooks.

Try and ignore the fact that your two sons are having pretend lightsabre fights and running in circles somewhere in the biodiversity gallery, their footsteps echoing. Pretend not to know them.

Go for micro over macro. Remain strangely unimpressed by the expensive dinosaur bones rising like cranes up to the ceiling in the centre of the room.

Systematically catalogue every tiny cowrie shell and beetle with your eyes. Imagine you are a camera. Thai zebra tarantula. Click. Crucifix swimming crab. Click. Carpenter bee. Click.

File away facts to use, either casually in conversation or in some literary short story you will one day write: Jewel beetles (Chrysochroa toulgoeti) are shiny and metallic-looking, not because of pigmentation but because of the way their exoskeletons reflect light.

One of your children comes to you and begs to go home.

Too late, you remember that he has a deep phobia of snakes, and an aversion to other reptiles and insects. This effectively rules out more than two-thirds of the exhibits at the museum.

You tell him you will steer him to the mammal section.

Tell him it is safe there. You put your hands over his eyes, and your husband takes one of his hands, his younger brother the other and, together, the entire family – like some strange new eight-legged and six-eyed insect – crawl slowly, excruciatingly, across the atrium, under the mirthless gaze of the dinosaurs.

Along the way, you try to get your children to stroke a panel of possum fur because it is soft like a dream. The elder son screams because he spots a scrap of bleached snake skin right next to the fur.

You realise that sand dollars are actual living things – not lost money on the beach, which is what you always pictured them as being when reading about them in books.

The clash between old ways and philosophies, and new identities and nationalities, intensifies after you climb the stairs to the Heritage Gallery. Singapore founder Sir Stamford Raffles’ stuffed birds and monkeys sit quietly, a few cabinets down from a drawer containing a Singapore $1 bill featuring a photo of a black-naped tern taken by Datuk Loke Wan Tho, who built up Cathay Organisation.

The children press buttons in the sound booth. They have exhausted the possibilities of the dinosaur app.

Standing in front of showcases, you wonder about the Victorian obsession for pigeonholing dead creatures into curio cases that

the museum’s collection sprung from. You laugh inwardly at the arrogance of men, colonial masters, trying to fix their world, insisting on stasis, even as

Nature refuses to be pinned down. You see the error of your ways, trying to herd your children’s imagination through life, so they learn the way you do.

Meditating in front of the jars of pickled snakes, you overhear one young man telling a few others that the python coiled up over there has two penises, and one of them is showing.

“Why?” you blurt out, before you can stop yourself.

“Why what?” he asks, startled.

“What is the second one for?” you ask.

“I don’t really know,” he replies.

Months later, you will still be wondering about this. You will look it up on the Internet and find an explanation: Female snakes are able to control which male snake they mate with will fertilise their eggs, so having two penises helps the male increase their sperm count, maximising their chances of reproduction. You will realise you need to wait for the younger son to grow up before you have someone to tell it to.

But in the museum, you nod at the young men, who scurry away from you, embarrassed.

What you must do next is this: Gather your children. Tell them it’s time to go home. Stop by the gift shop if necessary, and buy yourself a piece of petrified wood.

Drive away, and cheer again as a family when you realise that parking is free. Promise yourself to do this again.

That some of it will sink in.

Some day.

Copyrighted to Singapore Press Holdings Limited – Straits Times 27 July 2015

What does it take to work in a Natural History Museum?


“Must not be afraid of dead animals” That is the most important trait when working in the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, according to our Specialist Associate Ms Chen Mingshi in an interview with Her World Magazine.
IMG_4985 Handling the specimens is a very tedious job that all of us in the museum can attest to. our specimens in the museum also comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, from the small and delicate insects to the largest reptile that ever roamed the earth. Maintaining such a diverse collection do require a  special set of abilities. Being meticulous is especially important and she credits her background in fine arts, which has prepared her well!

Kate (middle), our conservator together with Iffah (left) and Mingshi (right) working hard to get the gallery ready before we officially open to public

IMG_4986 Coming from a field which is vastly different from natural history, it was her curiosity about the anatomy and physiology of animals which drew her to the job. Where better to work with animals with different form and function than at a Natural History Museum?

Getting the museum ready for visitors is hard work. Our Museum staff indulge in some moon-gazing during a much needed break!

So come along down to the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and listen to what some of our researchers work on in the museum!

If you are currently an NUS student and you are looking for a part time job, come join us at the Museum. Read more about it here!

The Her World Magazine feature on Chen Mingshi is a copyright of Her World Magazine, SPH Magazine.
Photographs of museum staff at work is courtesy of Marcus Chua

Natural history museums thrill but also scare

Museum tour of the macabre ST30062015

Natural history museums are a time machine but they are actually ghoulish places too

What’s that animal called in Hokkien?

What's That Animal Called in Hokkien - ST 15062015

WHAT’S in a name? Plenty, when compiling a list of animals in Hokkien.

What started out as a hobby for two curators at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum has evolved into a labour of love that documents, for the first time, Hokkien animal names as they are used here.

Called Minnan (Hokkien) Animal Names Used In Singapore, the 58-page directory was published as an e-book on the museum’s website earlier this month, and can be downloaded for free.

Apart from common translations like kau (dog), the directory of more than 300 animal names, complete with photos, lists some less-heard-of ones, such as hai tur (literally translated as sea pig, which refers to the dolphin) and even mythical creatures like the hong (phoenix).

Its main aim is to document Hokkien animal names and their pronunciations as they are used in Singapore, said Mr Tan Siong Kiat, 41, one of the two men behind the project. The other is Mr Kelvin Lim, 48.

“The translations were compiled from memory, experience, and from Hokkien speakers who are mainly the older members of our families and social circles,” said Mr Tan.

The names are not simply direct translations from Mandarin. Rather, they are colloquial names used by ancestors to refer to animals, and both men stressed that the list is “neither comprehensive nor authoritative” .

For example, the tapir, a herbivorous mammal that people seldom encounter, does not appear to have a Hokkien name yet, although the curators admit it is possible that they just “have not met or talked to anybody who knows”.

“People have come forward to tell us (animal) names that have been omitted,” said Mr Tan, and more names will be added, should there be a second edition of the book.

The directory could be a resource for those keen on learning more about Hokkien, although it is not a guide on how to speak it, the writers said.

Nature lovers and guides who talk to older folk may also find it useful.

“Our grandmothers wouldn’t understand us if we tried to talk to them about interesting animals using their English names,” noted Mr Tan.

The directory had its beginnings in mid-2013, when a volunteer at the museum, then called Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, wanted to learn more about Hokkien, said Mr Tan.

So Mr Tan and Mr Lim, both native Hokkien speakers, started conversing with her in Hokkien. These conversations sparked the idea to compile a list of Hokkien animal names.

Said Mr Tan: “Singlish now seems to be the lingua franca for young Singaporeans.

“We hope the book will be useful for those of Hokkien descent who are interested in discovering their roots.”

Undergraduate Sean Yap, 23, a volunteer guide at the museum as well as with Naked Hermit Crabs, which holds nature tours for the public, believes the directory will help him connect with his audience.

“When guiding, we try to be as conversational and colloquial as possible, and it really helps when you can connect with the people and how they view wildlife,” he said.

Businessman Michael Jow, 39, the moderator of the Facebook group, Revival of Non-Mandarin Chinese Vernaculars in Singapore, said that the directory is useful.

Mr Jow, who is also the leader of the Singapore Hokkien Meetup Group, said that the directory gives students a good background, with its list of “colloquial terms used by our ancestors”.

The directory is available at

Bukit Batok bug a harmless beetle – ST Story 3 May 2015 Sunday

Entomologists, Dr Hwang Wei Song and Foo Mao Sheng, from the museum and the Department of Biological Sciences, NUS, have found the identity of the insect that has been bugging Bukit Batok residents. Carolyn Khew from The Sunday Times reported the following article on 3 May 2015:


Bukit Batok bug a harmless beetle
By Carolyn Khew

The mystery bug that plagued Bukit Batok residents has been identified as a harmless beetle which does not even bite.

But what caused their sudden outbreak last month remains unclear.

Experts from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore have found out that the insect is the Ataenius australasiae.

About the size of a rice grain, the black-winged critters were seen in large numbers at three blocks of flats at Batok Batok West Avenue 8 at night, congregating at the lights in the void decks and common corridors. They then simply dropped dead, leaving huge piles of carcasses to clear.

“The sudden outbreak is still a mystery but now that the species is known, we can trace the possible sources. The immediate trigger is usually environmental,” said Dr Hwang Wei Song, museum officer at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

Experts identified the beetle after studying its morphology and using DNA sequencing. They then sought the help of entomologist Paul Skelley, who works for the Florida State Collection of Arthropods, to confirm their finding.

Dr Skelley said that these bugs have no “chewing mouth parts” and so cannot bite. But the way their legs hold on to surfaces can cause scratches, which people may think are bites.

“They do not carry any known disease, are not venomous and cannot harm humans,” he said. “When numerous, adult beetles are only a nuisance pest.”

To prevent future outbreaks, research needs to be done to find out where the beetle grub lives and to “alter the conditions that lead to the great increase in numbers”, he added.

“Sometimes, outbreaks are the result of the species recently coming into an area where it has no natural enemies,” said Dr Skelley.

Jurong Town Council general manager Ho Thian Poh said that while the town council has combed through open spaces, trees, rooftops and areas surrounding the blocks, it did not detect any breeding grounds.

The beetles were observed to have flown in from across the road towards the open field near the affected blocks.

Corridor and void deck lights facing that open field have since been covered with yellow cellophane paper so as not to attract the insects.

Residents said that they now see far fewer of these insects.

Said 29-year-old Simoh Goh, a financial consultant who lives at Block 170, one of the three affected blocks: “Initially, we were concerned, but we realised they don’t bite so they’re pretty harmless.”

LKCNHM featured on The 5 Show

We were featured on The 5 Show​ on MediaCorp Channel 5​, where host Chua Enlai spent a night at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum with the dinosaurs, snakes, “the seafood section”, “The Night Shift” and the heritage gallery. 028 20150424 5 show 2 F T

In case you missed it, you can watch it on Toggle​ from the 7:20 mark  at the following link:

1 1/2-hour tickets: New museum explains why

20150421 ST

By Audrey Tan

A walk through Singapore’s first and only natural history museum is meant to be a serene experience, much like taking a walk in a lush forest.

That is why the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, which opens to the public next Tuesday, is barring selfie sticks and flash photography. It is also selling tickets for 11/2-hour slots and not daily passes allowing guests entry at any time they choose.

“We calculated that the whole gallery experience will be between one and 11/2 hours, so we calibrated the slots on that basis,” museum head Peter Ng told The Straits Times. “Because of the initial interest, we did not want this place to be ‘free for all’ – because then guests would not get the same experience.”

There are six such sessions a day, with the first at 10am and the last at 5.30pm. Each slot can take about 200 people, and tickets must be pre-booked through ticketing agent Sistic and will not be available for sale on site.

Tickets cost $20 per adult and $12 per child, but Singaporeans and permanent residents enjoy discounted rates of $15 per adult and $8 for a child. As of 6pm yesterday, 1,818 tickets had been sold for visits from April 28 to May 31.

Professor Ng stressed that guests would not be turned away the minute their time runs out. The time limit is an administrative guideline for selling tickets, to control the crowd in the 2,000 sq m exhibition space, he added.

Visitors to the museum, which is located within the National University of Singapore campus in Kent Ridge, can browse a treasure trove of 2,000 artefacts in its biodiversity and heritage galleries.

They include the genuine fossils of three diplodocid sauropod dinosaurs, which are among the largest creatures to roam the earth 150 million years ago.

The $46 million museum building was funded through philanthropic gifts, with the Lee Foundation donating $25 million.

In response to netizens who ask why the museum is charging an admission fee when most other museums here do not, Prof Ng said it was because it is not an institution under the National Heritage Board. The statutory board under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth runs six museums here, including the National Museum of Singapore, to which Singaporeans and permanent residents enjoy free admission.

“The museum needs to be financially independent. The endowments and donations have been able to subsidise a large chunk of operating costs, but not fully. We therefore need ticketing to offset some of those costs,” Prof Ng said.

Mr Muhammad Hafiz’zan Shah, 30, a veterinary nurse, noted that there are other museums with a similar policy, such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum which issues one-hour passes from March to August. He said: “Having a limited timeframe will definitely help with overcrowding and crowd control.”