About NUS Toddycats!

About the name – NUS Toddycats!  are volunteers with the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore. The name is derived form the common name of the common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), one of the last wild carnivorans in urbanised Singapore.Toddycats Logo Sep 2016

The logo of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (1999–2014) was that of a toddy cat on a palm leaf, the significance of which is explained below. With the change of the museum name and assignation to its own department in 2014, the name of this volunteer group which dates back to the 90’s was changed from Raffles Museum Toddycats! to NUS Toddycats! Read more about our origins and public education strategy in this 2005 article “Toddycats! – the birth of the Raffles Museum Volunteers“.

The original toddycat drawing on the museum logo was based on an orphaned common palm civet kitten  rescued from ants at an army camp and brought to what was then the Department of Zoology in 1996. A few of us cared for the animal and gave this civet the name “Toddy”. Tragically, Toddy was killed by a dog. 1996 also marks the year in which The Habitat Group was formed, which would evolve to become the Toddycats programme.

About the programme – Toddycats! is meant to expose, develop, enthuse and apply individuals to programmes in conservation, education and research. The programme, originally conceived in 1999, meant to contribute towards capacity building of undergraduates in NUS, to provide them with an immediate means to contribute socially and meaningfully towards the greater good of nature and the environment in Singapore. The programme is now open to anyone who can fit our schedule, in the recognition of the diversity of people who would like to contribute. All you need is what drives us – enthusiasm and commitment!

The Toddycats! engage in public education through:

  1. Exhibitions – we introduce the layman to Singapore’s existing wildlife at public exhibitions using specimens from the Raffles Museum. On special occasions, we conduct guided tours at the Raffles Museum’s Public Gallery.
  2. Nature and heritage trails – these introduce the layman to natural history and heritage through guided walks (or rides) at Pulau Ubin, Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve and the Southern Ridges.
  3. Coastal Cleanups – we coordinate the annual International Coastal Cleanup Singapore and Year-Round Coastal Cleanups.
  4. Public seminars and symposia– we share exciting tales about Singapore’s biodiversity and heritage through informed, current and energetic presentations.
  5. Webpages & Blogs – to provide information resources online for all to use.
  6. Active partnerships with other groups, agencies and institutions on programmes, events and national strategies and action plans that achieve common goals.

To learn more, see our Programmes page.

Engaging youth before university

Since 2017, NUS Toddycats have been investing its effort in the Biodiversity Friends Forum in collaboration with The Biodiversity Roundtable of Singapore. This project, in collaboration with NParks, reaches out to youth earlier and beyond campus, to motivate, expose and empower those interested contributing to conservation. Toddycats have been involved in organising, facilitating, guiding and mentoring younger folk.

Project Captains

Active programmes (during COVID-19)

  • Ecosystem restoration at Kranji Coast Nature Park –Airani S
  • Mangrove Cleanups & the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore – Airani S, Joleen Chan & the ICCS Zone Captains
  • Pasir Panjang Heritage – Kenneth Pinto, Airani S
  • Ridge Walk – Kenneth Pinto, Xu Weiting, Airani S
  • Festival of Biodiversity – Xu Weiting & Theresa Su
  • Pedal Ubin – Joelle Lai
  • Coordinator (all programmes) – N. Sivasothi

Retired programmes

  • HOWL – Theresa Su & Lesley Chng (previously Ong Say Lin)
  • Love MacRitchie – Chloe Tan & Rachel Lee
  • The Shelter Pawject – Joys Tan, Ong Say Lin, Amanda Tan, Grace Tan

National Representation

Toddycats contribute to the following:

Biodiversity Roundtable of Singapore

  • Secretariat & Meetings – Airani S, Xu Weiting, Fung Tze Kwan, Marcus Chua, N. Sivasothi
  • Biodiversity Friends Forum (BFF) – Xu Weiting, Fung Tze Kwan, Marcus Chua, Joys Tan, N. Sivasothi

Working Groups 

  • Otter Working Group Singapore – Tina Liow, N. Sivasothi
  • Long Tailed Macaque Working Group – N. Sivasothi
  • Urban Wildlife Working Group – Xu Weiting, N. Sivasothi
  • Freshwater Crab Working Group Singapore – N. Sivasothi
  • Banded Leaf Monkey Working Group – N. Sivasothi
  • Marine Turtle Working Group Singapore – N. Sivasothi

Friends of Parks

  • Friends of Pulau Ubin – N. Sivasothi
  • Friends of Sisters Island Marine Park – Adriane Lee
  • Friends of Sungei Buloh – Adriane Lee
  • Friends of Rail Corridor – Fung Tze Kwan & David Tan
  • Friends of Bukit Timah – Alvin Wong
  • Friends of Chestnut Nature Park – Airani S, N. Sivasothi

Technical Groups

  • Ecological Profiling ExerciseScientific Advisory Committee – N. Sivasothi
  • Nature Reserves Scientific Advisory Committee – Marcus Chua, N. Sivasothi
  • Mandai Parks Development Stakeholder Meetings – Fung Tze Kwan, Marcus Chua, Joelle Lai, N. Sivasothi
  • Cross Island Line Working Group – Marcus Chua, N. Sivasothi
  • Other stakeholder metings – Marcus Chua, Fun Tze Kwan, N. Sivasothi

The Toddycat and the Palm Leaf

The significancRmbrlogoe of the logo of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (1998-2014), from which the volunteer corp was named. From the official opening of the Public Gallery at the Faculty of Science (S6-03) in 2001.

“The city-dwelling Singaporean shares the island with a secret world. A remnant but surprising richness of plant and animal life, has survived the impact of modern Singapore, and is testament to Southeast Asian biodiversity. And part of it remains woven into our lives, a heritage of the culture of the people and biodiversity of the land. One of the local missions of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research is to promote a celebration of this heritage.

The Common Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) – An urban survivor inhabiting a secret world
The Common Palm Civet is also known as the Toddy Cat due to an apparent predilection for fermented fruits of palm trees, a raw version of the alcoholic toddy drink! Unlike other civets, Toddy is an urban survivor, and in Singapore, is the only wild carnivore surviving the city.

Commonly residing in roofs of houses, gardens and parks, they travel between houses via telephone wires, poles and trees. Often mistaken for cats or rats in the roof, Toddy eats flesh and fruit with equal gusto.

Seven of the eight species of world’s palm civets are found in Southeast Asia. They are secretive and elegant animals residing in the threatened forests of Asia, and even now, we know very little about them!

The Palm leaf (The Palm family, Palmae) – Conspicuous, familiar, useful and diverse.
Palms epitomise the tropics, and their characteristic fan and feather-shaped leaves lean into decent photographs of sun-kissed beaches! Singapore has more species of palms than the entire African continent, for palm diversity reaches its peak in the eastern tropics with about 100 genera, and more than 1,300 species!

The life of modern city dweller remains entwined with the palms. We thirstily drink the sweet fluids of the coconut (Cocos nucifera) and the current popular “pearl tea” (from the sago palm, Metroxylon sp.). In the midst of a plate of ice-kacang, we would chew enthusiastically on ‘attap chee’ (from the Nypa or Atap palm, Nypa fruticans). The pacifying view of the Lipstick (Cyrtostachys renda) and Fishtail (Caryota mitis) palms greet strollers at all corners of the island. And even the rod wielded for a spanking was from a rattan palm!

Yet the secrets of the palms on a hill as small as Bukit Timah have yet to be totally unravelled!”

Postscript – Thirteen years later, Adrian Loo et al. would publish the Science Center Guidebook, “A guide to the native palms of Singapore”