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

LKCNHM Now Open to the Public!

We’re open to the public starting today!

An orderly queue stretched out across our atrium this morning and we welcomed our first excited visitors to the museum at 10:00 am.


Under gasps of “wow, that’s cool!”, and people looking in wonder at the exhibits and dinosaurs, we hope all our visitors would enjoy the LKCNHM galleries and leave with a deeper appreciation of biodiversity and our natural heritage.

0 stamps

PS. For today only: the friendly team from Singapore Post are here until 6:00 pm with special commemorative LKCNHM cachets in our atrium. You can bring your LKCNHM first day covers here to get them stamped or purchase them on the spot.

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.”

Make a date with the dinos

The creatures are waiting. Over 2,000 specimens to be exact, ranging from majestic dinosaur fossils to a bird in the collection of famed British naturalist Alfred Wallace, will be on show to the public on April 28 at the new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. Chang Ai-Lien takes a look inside, and checks out the book which tells its story.

Early days

The idea of setting up a museum in Singapore goes back to 1823, when Sir Stamford Raffles founded the Singapore Institution. Formally established as the Raffles Library and Museum in 1878, Singapore’s natural history museum began life in Stamford Road in 1887, exhibiting preserved animal specimens from South-east Asia. Over the years, it became known as the Raffles Museum and National Museum – which had collections of natural history, anthropology and art.

In 1972, after it split from the National Museum, it was often referred to as the Raffles Collection or the Raffles Natural History Collection. After it became ensconced in the Department of Zoology at the National University of Singapore, it became known as the Zoological Reference Collection and, from 1998, formed the core of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.

Now it has found a permanent home at the new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, where the displays, such as this one which includes crocodiles, and a Komodo dragon skeleton, are designed to evoke excitement and interest in the diversity of life. Rather than cluttering the displays with text, the researchers behind it created a special app that allows visitors to get details on each exhibit using their smartphones.

Source: Of Whales And Dinosaurs

The whale that got away

In 1892, the museum acquired a 42-foot (12.8m) skeleton of an Indian fin whale which died after being stranded near Malacca. Lack of space at the museum prevented the skeleton from being properly mounted for display, and it remained in storage for the next 15 years. In 1907, the skeleton was finally mounted. Missing bones – a scapula, the “hands”, and several vertebrae and ribs – were modelled out of wood and plaster of paris and the whole skeleton “was suspended by steel ropes from the ceiling”. When unveiled, it was undoubtedly “the most striking exhibit in the Zoological gallery”. The museum now had on display a specimen of the world’s largest creature in its galleries.

In May 1974, after the National Museum gave up its natural history collection to the Science Centre, the whale was taken down, dismantled into three pieces and sent by truck as a gift to the Muzium Negara (National Museum) in Kuala Lumpur.

Source: Of Whales And Dinosaurs

Dino delights

Three dinosaurs will be the highlight of the museum.

Skeletons of the three diplodocid sauropods, some of the biggest creatures to walk on earth some 150 million years ago, were found together at a quarry in Wyoming in the United States, and are more than 80 per cent complete.

Two of them – Apollonia and Prince – were adults measuring 24m and 27m respectively from head to tail, while the baby dinosaur, Twinky, was 12m long. After they were uncovered, the bones were first wrapped in paper towels and encased in a protective plaster and burlap cast. They were then moved to a lab where the casing was removed. Once the bones were exposed, the rock was chipped off, and a strengthening liquid was added to preserve and harden the fossils.

In Singapore, the bones were authenticated by putting them through CT scans. Then the dinosaurs were pieced together again on a custom-built frame, with missing pieces filled in with resin parts made from casts.

Items on display at the new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum include crocodiles and a Komodo dragon skeleton. — PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

Singapore Press Holdings Limited

Tickets to see rare dinosaur skeletons go on sale

30032015 ST


THOSE who want to be among the first to see the rare dinosaur skeletons at the upcoming Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum can now book tickets.

Singapore’s first and only dedicated natural history museum will open its doors on April 28, and tickets go on sale in advance from today.

They will not be on sale at the door but only via ticketing agent Sistic.

This is to help with crowd control, as only up to 300 guests are allowed in for each of the six daily sessions at the museum, which is located next to the University Cultural Centre at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Tickets cost up to $20 for adults and $12 for children aged three to 12. For Singaporeans and permanent residents, tickets cost $15 for adults and $8 for children.

Visitors will be able to see Prince, Apollo and Twinky, the trio of 150 million-year-old diplodocid sauropod dinosaur skeletons that are the stars of the new museum.

Prince and Apollo are adults and Twinky is a baby. They were found together and could well be a family.

Prince is the biggest at 4m tall and 27m long, while Twinky is the smallest at 12m long.

The museum acquired them in 2011 from Dinosauria International, a Wyoming-based fossil company that found the remains between 2007 and 2010 in Ten Sleep, a town in the American state.

The skeletons are more than 80 per cent complete – a rarity as far as dinosaur discoveries go.

In all, visitors will get to see 2,000 specimens, including leopard cats that have undergone taxidermy and a rare 200-year- old tusk of a narwhal, a marine mammal known as the “unicorn of the ocean”.

The opening of the 7,500 sq m museum will bring to fruition more than five years of labour by NUS professors Leo Tan and Peter Ng, who led efforts to build such a facility and helped to raise $46 million for it in 2010.

The building fund came largely from the Lee Foundation, which gave $25 million.

Before 2010, there had long been calls for Singapore to have its own stand-alone natural history museum to showcase its rich natural heritage, especially after animal and plant exhibits from the old National Museum made way for art and ethnographic displays.

At the new natural history museum, a 2,000 sq m space open to the public will house a biodiversity gallery and a heritage gallery.

The main biodiversity gallery, where the dinosaur skeletons are located, takes up the first floor. It is arranged thematically and will have sections on marine cycles, mammals and fungi.

While the museum has a strong South-east Asian focus, the prehistoric era when dinosaurs roamed the earth is not neglected, said museum curator Marcus Chua, 31. “The dinosaurs and model of the dodo in the museum are reminders of extinction.”

Not all of the museum’s exhibits are extinct or dead – there will be live scorpions in the biodiversity gallery’s arthropod section and mudskippers in the fish section.

Visitors can observe animals rarely encountered in the wild in a naturalistic setting, said Mr Chua.

Just above the biodiversity hall is the heritage gallery, which showcases the pioneers of Singapore’s nature scene, such as ornithologist Guy Charles Madoc – a Briton who illicitly completed An Introduction To Malayan Birds while incarcerated at Changi Prison during World War II.

NUS life sciences undergraduate Randolph Quek, 24, cannot wait to see the dinosaur skeletons.

“As an ecology student, I also want to check out the other specimens,” he said.

“Apart from watching documentaries, the museum is a good way to get people aware of the biodiversity we have here.”

What visitors need to know

Opening hours

* 10am to 7pm from Tuesdays to Sundays, and on all public holidays

Standard rates

* Adult: $20

* Child (three to 12 years old): $12

Local resident rates (Singaporeans and PRs)

* Adult: $15

* Child (three to 12 years old), student, senior citizen, full-time national serviceman, person with disabilities: $8

* NUS staff and students: Free. Admission subject to availability, prior booking must be made on a website which will be set up.


* Tickets can be bought up to one month in advance and will be sold only through Sistic at or at authorised counters.

* Tickets will not be sold at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

* Tickets are sold for 11/2-hour sessions, starting from 10am.

Last admission is at 5.30pm.

* Selfie sticks are not allowed in the museum.

The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum will open its doors on April 28 and tickets go on sale from today via Sistic. Visitors will be able to see Prince, Apollo and Twinky, the trio of 150 million-year-old diplodocid sauropod dinosaur skeletons that are the stars of the new facility.

Singapore Press Holdings Limited

Online database captures S’pore’s rich biodiversity

24022015 ST

Dr Ang Yuchen (left), a post-doctoral researcher helming the new site, with Professor Rudolf Meier. — PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Online database captures S’pore’s rich biodiversity

Audrey Tan

A NEW online database has been launched compiling research on how Singapore’s flora and fauna interact with each other.

Called Animals and Plants of Singapore, it is managed by Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and went live on the museum’s website this month.

Users can click on an animal and find links to information on the plants or animals it feeds on – though work on the site is ongoing and not all species have links in place yet.

The database provides a name and a photograph of each species. For further information, users must click on the links to external sources, such as pages created by the National University of Singapore‘s life sciences classes, or the museum’s Singapore Biodiversity Records – an online collection of “flora and fauna in Singapore, including sightings of uncommon or rare species”.

Professor Rudolf Meier, deputy head of the museum, said the goal is to understand how different species interact to sustain Singapore’s green spaces.

“Animals and Plants of Singapore will track these interdependencies by linking species pages of prey and predators, or plants and pollinators,” he said.

“If we had a dedicated person or team doing the research, it would be as time-consuming as writing an academic paper for each species. But by tapping already-published research and observations, the site can be updated more frequently.”

Prof Meier hopes the site will make it easier for people to appreciate Singapore’s diverse ecosystem and give them a reliable source of information.

Data is cross-referenced with the museum’s stable of experts before being uploaded, and the site lists the names of the experts who identified the species.

The database now records more than 1,000 species of plants and animals, but Prof Meier hopes to more than double this figure by the end of the year. He estimates that there could be between 50,000 and 100,000 multicellular plant and animal species here.

Studies are under way to establish this, such as Singapore’s first comprehensive marine biodiversity survey, led by the National Parks Board (NParks). It began five years ago and is expected to be completed by May this year.

Dr Lena Chan, director of NParks’ National Biodiversity Centre, said: “Biodiversity databases are very important as they are historical records of plants and animals. These databases can be set up only if long-term monitoring surveys are carried out.”

She said the museum’s new database will complement NParks’ records, including its online Biodiversity and Environment Database System, which was started in 2011 and records 5,000 species of flora and 750 species of fauna.

“Together, we can generate greater awareness and appreciation of the rich biodiversity that we have,” she said.

Animals and Plants of Singapore, designed for desktop browsing, is at


23022015 ZB


李光前自然历史博物馆将于今年4月 28 日,正式向公众敞开大门。


除了恐龙化石,李光前自然历史博物,1 馆将收纳的物品, 绝大部分迁自莱佛士1生物多样性研究博物馆;数量高达50多万件。不过,只有约一成馆藏得以和公众见面,其余的物品均用于研究工作。但无论!是展品数量和展馆面积,均比莱佛士生物多样性研究博物馆多出十倍。

为确保所有标本顺利搬迁,莱佛士生物多样性研究博物馆早在2013 年4月率先关闭,以便工作人员有充裕时间为各类标本“打包”,做搬家准备。正式的搬迁工作从去年8月陆续展开。


新加坡国立大学鱼类分类学讲师陈旭辉( 43岁)是其中一名负责博物馆搬迁的工作人员,他受访时透露,迁馆工程不仅浩大,且好事多磨。

他说: “博物馆收藏的标本主要分为民干湿两种,前者包括鸟类和哺乳动物等实体标本,后者则是存放在酒精中的有机、体。我们原以为可以同时搬迁,但由于工程和技术等无法预期的问题,不得不分开进行,因此过程相当耗时耗力。”

由于馆内珍藏了年代久远的各类动物标本,为确保它们搬入新馆后的品质,工作人员必须先把实体标本冰冻至少两个星期,以除去依附在标本上的寄生虫等“外来物”,同时确保新馆环境不会被它们 “污染” 。冰冻标本的温度在零下21 摄氏度左右,过程中使用特别制作的箱子,方便之后的解冻工作。


陈旭辉说: “动物标本就好像一副艺术品,除了确保毛发体型还原真实状态,最重要的其实是它的眼睛,一定要让它们看起来栩栩如生。我们的同事这次特别进行了修补工作,把毛发和眼睛重新清理丁一遍。”

李光前自然历史博物馆位于新加坡国立大学文化中心旁,楼高六层,耗资4600万元打造。一楼展厅将分为上下两层,有“生物多样性”和“生物遗产”两个对外开放的展馆;二楼至四楼将不开放给公众参观,主要放置用于研究工作的干湿标本, 五六楼则用于行政和其他工作。

据陈旭辉介绍, 由于湿标本装在灌有酒精的标本瓶中, 新馆中的收藏室不但防爆,也设计了特别的沟渠和隔板系统,在酒精外漏时可迅速排出易燃液体。

工作人员目前已进入最后的准备阶段, 所有展品也即将各就各位。陈旭辉说: “这真是一项不简单的工作,现在我们看到旧博物馆中空空的架子和纸箱,非常有满足感。”

©Singapore Press Holdings

Behind the scenes at new natural history museum

23022015 ST

Behind the scenes at new natural history museum

More than 500,000 lots of specimens have purpose-built home at NUS

A RARE golden babirusa specimen stood encased in glass in a dusty little corner of the National University of Singapore (NUS) for decades.

The pig artefact, collected in 1913 in Indonesia, will soon be watching over something bigger and better when it takes its place at the upcoming Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, located next to the University Cultural Centre at NUS.

Before the move, however, it had to undergo at least two weeks of preparation. First, it had to be placed in a waterproof box to protect it from condensation. Then the prized wild pig was frozen at -21 deg C to kill mites or insects, before being progressively thawed to about 15 deg C.

All this, just to prepare one specimen for its new home at Singapore’s first and only natural history museum, slated to open its doors in April.

The museum will be a treasure trove of the region’s rich natural heritage, housing animal specimens and fossils from the vaults of the former Raffles Museum, which dates back to 1849.

More than 500,000 lots of specimens were moved – from quirky creatures like an eight-legged piglet to locally extinct species like the three-striped ground squirrel.

And even though not all will go on display – more than 90 per cent will be kept as part of the research collection for academics, students and scientists – they all had to be packed and prepped for the massive move, which involved the museum’s seven curators, a team of about 10 professional art movers and about five student assistants and museum specialists.

Dr Tan Heok Hui, one of the curators, said the collection could be broadly divided into two categories – dry and wet.

The dry category will be housed on the museum’s fourth floor, and consists of plants, birds, mammals, fish and coral specimens, among others.

Like the golden babirusa, specimens in this category had to undergo extensive preparation work.

Moving the wet collection, which included specimens kept in a liquid medium of about 75 per cent ethanol (a flammable liquid), involved getting permits from the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

The wet category will be housed on levels two and three of the new museum, which has purpose-built rooms.

The curators are confident that the move will be completed by June, although specimens for public viewing will be ready by its official opening.

The research collection, however, will be opened only in phases for scientific use, said Dr Tan.

He added: “I once visited a bookshop in Vietnam and found that the books were arranged by size – I couldn’t find anything.

“It is the same for the research collection. If nothing is in its place, information cannot be extracted and is as good as lost.”

©Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

LKCNHM featured in “Youths use their free time to go green”

The museum’s outreach and education unit was featured by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on 29 Dec 2014 in a spotlight on the environment and youths.

Scientific Officer, Tammy Lim, spoke about how nature walks such as the Sunburst Environment Programme in Nov 2014 can help increase nature awareness and biodiversity conservation efforts among youths (from 4:01 in video).

The story also features Prof Leo Tan, who is one of the key individuals who made the LKCNHM a reality.

Watch the video here:

CNA Sunburt Environment Programme

Coming to our Heritage Gallery when the Museum opens: A piece of WWII history.


Text in English

Book by exPOW to be honoured at nature museum

Bird enthusiast wrote it while being held at Changi Prison during WWII
by Audrey Tan

ORNITHOLOGIST Guy Charles Madoc did not let his time as a prisoner of war stop him from writing about his passion.

By May 1943, less than a year after his -capture by the Japanese during World War II, the Briton had illicitly completed a 146-page manuscript titled “An Introduction To Malayan Birds” while being incarcerated in Changi Prison.

Mr Madoc, an officer with the Federated Malaya Police, was 32 at the time and wrote most of it from memories of his bird -watching  trips to Malaya’s jungles and rocky islands. Writing materials, such as a typewriter and paper, were borrowed and taken covertly from the Japanese commandant’s office by a fellow prisoner.

The book went on to be published by the Malayan Nature Society and was reprinted in 1947 and 1956. Mr Madoc’s original copy – bound in red leather ripped from the seats of a wrecked car in war-torn Singapore – is still kept within the family.

However, history buffs will be able to get a glimpse of a replica of the original copy when the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum opens its doors next year.

Scanned pages of Mr Madoc’s book, with black-and-white photographs, taxidermied birds, as well as models of the original book cover and the typewriter he used, will go on display in the museum’s Heritage Gallery.

It will be the first time that Mr Madoc’s works will be displayed in a museum, and for his daughter Fenella Madoc-Davis, the icing on the cake is that her father ‘s works will be showcased in Singapore’s first natural history museum.

The 65-year-old said: “It’s amazing that there is still interest in (my father ‘s works) more than 70 years since he first wrote it.”

The retired primary school teacher said that her father ‘s love  for birds was cultivated from the time he was young by his father Henry, also an avid birdwatcher.

Among his favourite bird species was the pied hornbill, “which had a strange squawk”; the brown booby; and the Madoc’s blue rock thrush – which was named after him after he discovered it in 1940.

Mr Madoc was a native of the Isle of Man, an island sandwiched between England and Ireland, and he first arrived in Penang by boat in 1931. The then bachelor had harboured aspirations to follow in his policeman father ‘s footsteps and, after joining the British colonial office, he was sent to South-east Asia.

Four years later, after a six-month trip back to Britain, Mr Madoc returned to Malaya a married man, having tied the knot with his childhood sweetheart during the break. A year later, the couple had a son, David. ·

Then, tragedy struck – twice. First, the Japanese seized Mr Madoc as a prisoner of war in 1942. Then, in 1943, David  died of diabetes at the age of six.

Mr Madoc’s colourful literary work, produced in such dark times , proved an inspiration for his daughter.

Mrs Madoc-Davis, who is married with two children, said: “His ability to rise above the deprivation, difficulty, and fear of being beaten up and tortured at that time was amazing.”

In 1945, Mr Madoc was released from the prisoner of war camp, after spending three and a half years there.

He returned to Britain for four months, but the lure of South-east Asia, its culture and variety of birds eventually drew him back to the tropics.

Upon his retirement from the colonial police in 1959, he went back to the Isle of Man, where he spent the next 40 years volunteering as a marshall at motorcycle races, and gardening.

He died in 1999 of a stroke, at the age of 88.

Paying tribute to her father, Mrs Madoc-Davis said: “He taught me to love the great outdoors and to have a sense of adventure… and I’ve also learnt to love things that live in nature, especially birds, animals and plants.”

Copyright Singapore Press Holding 2014