About NUS Toddycats!
About the name – NUS Toddycats! are volunteers with the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at the National University of Singapore. The name comes from the common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), the last wild carnivore in terrestrial urbanised Singapore.
The logo of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (1999–2014) was that of a toddy cat on a palm leaf and the significance of this is explained below. With the change of the museum name in 2014, the name of this volunteer group 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 abandoned common palm civet kitten which was rescued from ants at an army camp and brought in to the then 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.
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 contrite and that all you need is enthusiasm and commitment!
The Toddycats! engage in public education through:
- 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.
- 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.
- Public seminars and symposia– we share exciting tales about Singapore’s biodiversity and heritage through informed, current and energetic presentations.
- Webpages & Blogs – to provide information resources online for all to use.
- Active partnerships with other groups, agencies and institutions on programmes, events and national strategies and action plans that achieve common goals.
- Coastal Cleanups – we coordinate the annual International Coastal Cleanup Singapore and Year-Round Coastal Cleanups.
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.
- Love MacRitchie – Chloe Tan & Rachel Lee
- Pasir Panjang Heritage – Kenneth Pinto, Airani S
- International Coastal Cleanup Singapore – Airani S & the ICCS Zone Captains
- Pedal Ubin – Joelle Lai
- Ridge Walk – Kenneth Pinto, Xu Weiting, Airani S
- Festival of Biodiversity – Xu Weiting & Theresa Su
- HOWL – Theresa Su & Lesley Chng (previously Ong Say Lin)
- Photos – Kenneth Pinto
- Coordinator – N. Sivasothi
- The Shelter Pawject – Joys Tan, Ong Say Lin, Amanda Tan, Grace Tan
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
- Otter Working Group Singapore – Tina Liow, N. Sivasothi
- Long Tailed Macaque Working Group – Joys Tan, 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 – Joelle Lai, 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
- Nature Reserves Scientific Advisory Committee – Marcus Chua, N. Sivasothi
- Mandai Parks Development Stakeholder Meetings – Joelle Lai, Marcus Chua, Airani S, N. Sivasothi
- Cross Island Line Working Group – Marcus Chua, N. Sivasothi
- Other stakeholer metings – Marcus Chua, Fun Tze Kwan, N. Sivasothi
The Toddycat and the Palm Leaf
The significance of the logo of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (1998-2014), from which the volunteer corp was named. From the text used at 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!