Author Archives: Weiting

Otters and crocs @ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve – Toddycats gear up for Festival of Biodiversity in May

We are counting down to Festival of Biodiversity 2017 which is a month away! This annual celebration of Singapore’s biodiversity by members of the Biodiversity Roundtable of Singapore with NParks will present the two day event at at Serangoon NEX on 27-28 May 2017: 10.30am – 10.30pm.

To prepare our crew, Toddycats’ seniors are conducting three training sessions (two field trips and a lab session) which fittingly began on Earth Day last Saturday 22 Apr 2017 at our precious mangrove reserve, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. The field trips will help bring the magic of our natural areas to the shopping centre to encourage

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With undergrads slogging away for the exams, the cosy session of 12 Toddycats was split into four small groups, each led by an experienced Toddycats senior – Amy Choong, Alvin Wong, Marcus Ng, and Theresa Su & Xu Weiting.

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What’s in the water? Theresa sharing form & function stories of halfbeaks and archer fishes from the main bridge.

Some groups were really lucky in the post-drizzle and saw the elusive black spitting cobra, a family of six smooth-coated otters and an estuarine crocodile.


A family of six otters having their brunch at the Main Pond. Photo by Alvin Wong

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The two hours were filled with many observations and personal stories about the mangrove denizens, reminding us of the importance of mangroves , which we will share with the FOB2017 visitors.

Bring family and friends to FoB2017. Toddycats alone have recruited 50 volunteers to ensure we always have fresh faces eager and ready to share stories with visitors on the 27 & 28 May 2017. And there will be many nature groups there, with talks at the library by various working groups. A wonderful way to discover biodiversity in Singapore. See you there!

Festival of Biodiversity 2015

Join us as a Toddycats volunteer at Festival of Biodiversity 2017!

19264266751_f72272bb20_kHave a treasure-trove of nature-related stories but not sure who to share them with? Come join the NUS Toddycats at the Festival of Biodiversity 2017! This annual event aims to create awareness and promote efforts in conserving and enhancing our local biodiversity. Check out various recounts of past years’ Festival of Biodiversity events!

Where: NEX Serangoon

When: 27–28 May 2017

Not sure if you have enough stories to tell? Fret not. There will be two training sessions this year (volunteers need only to attend one) to equip volunteers with nature tales on the specimens on display this year.

In addition, volunteers with NUS Toddycats this year will have a chance to embark on not one, but TWO nature walks for an immersive experience in our natural habitats before we gear up for FOB 2017!

If you have a passion for our natural heritage, and want to lend a voice to our local biodiversity, sign up here:


Toddycats’ last event of 2012 – Nature Interpretation workshop

On the last Saturday of 2012, a special volunteer enrichment course “Introduction to Nature Interpretation” was conducted by Ron Yeo, a very experienced nature guide. During the workshop, volunteers learnt that guiding is all about M.A.D, which is short for Message crafting, Audience and Delivery of the message. Ron shared many of his guiding experiences and tips on how to be an effective nature guide through a lively and enthusiastic delivery!

Guiding is all about "MAD"

Guiding is all about “MAD”

One hour into the workshop after the lecture, each participant had 30 minutes to prepare a script on an organism to be presented as though they are guiding. This script section was an invaluable lesson as each participant tried to put to practice the points mentioned and everyone received individual feedback on how to improve their guiding skills. The workshop was indeed an insightful one and everyone picked up some great nature guiding tips. As a guide, we must remember that factual accuracy of one’s message is of utmost importance too. If you wish to find out more, Ron has kindly put up a blog post on Nature Interpretation for Beginners at his blog (

Imagine the water bottle is a pitcher plant! Brandon Ang telling us more about the pitcher plant.

Imagine the water bottle is a pitcher plant! Brandon Ang telling us more about the pitcher plant.

Gladys Chua's script was on the sand bubble crab!

Gladys Chua’s script was on the sand bubble crab!

Benjamin Lim sharing about the flat worm!

Benjamin Lim sharing about the flat worm!

In order to complement the classroom training, a handful of us went down to Tanah Merah for an intertidal walk to explore marine life in Singapore. During the intertidal walk, we saw a variety of organisms such as the bigfin reef squid, cuttlefish, stonefishes, sea stars and crabs!

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The weather was good and the tides were low enough for us to observe many inter-tidal organisms

We saw two bigfin reef squids (Sepioteuthis lessoniana)!

We saw two bigfin reef squids (Sepioteuthis lessoniana)!

Cuttlefish (Family Sepiidae)

Cuttlefish (Family Sepiidae)

Stonefish was one of the animals that we encountered. We were extra careful not to step on any of them accidentally!

Stonefish was one of the animals that we encountered. We were extra careful not to step on any of them accidentally!

Common sea star (Archaster typicus) with 4 and 6 arms!

Common sea star (Archaster typicus) with 4 and 6 arms!

After two hours and as the tides were rising, we concluded this fruitful last activity of 2012.

In 2012, the volunteers of Raffles Museum Toddycats had a wonderful and memorable year participating in various exhibitions and activities! Highlight events of the year include the

1. Inaugural Festival of Biodiversity which was held at the Singapore Botanic Gardens in May where Toddycats! was one of the many participating organisations. It was a really large-scale exhibition which involved many of our volunteers sharing stories with the public and showcasing our native biodiversity and habitats present in Singapore.

2. Otter Cycling Trail which was a new enrichment activity for Toddycats volunteers. This guided cycling event dreamed up by Otterman and executed by Ottergirl (Meryl Theng) was conducted in July. The participants rode from Changi to Punggol with stops in between with guides to share about the birds, wild pigs and otters that can be sighted along this route!

As 2013 commences, we look forward to being part of many exciting exhibitions and also to conduct more volunteer enrichment programmes. If you would like to join in the fun and volunteer, please sign up as a toddycat at For more updates on our events, you can check out our Raffles Museum Toddycats Facebook page or Raffles Museum Toddycats blog.

It’s September – the International Coastal Cleanup is here!

What have a core group in Raffles Museum Toddycats been busy with these past few months?

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International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

ICCS Otters are a team within the Raffles Museum Toddycats who coordinate the annual International Coastal Cleanup, Singapore. Held in September annually, this event involves some 4,000 participants from 40-60 schools and organisations who collect, categorise and remove marine trash on our shores. The team, which comprises several veterans, begin work in February and end in October, organised around five formal meetings with lots of field trips, emails and phone conversations in between.

Examples of Toddycats in action in their dual roles in
public guiding and coastal cleanups


Marcus Tay is a veteran volunteer for Raffles Museum Toddycats! and International Coastal Cleanup Singapore. He has completed various exhibitions specimen guiding sessions and is the 2012 ICCS zone captain of Pulau Ubin.


Yang Yi Yong joined Toddycats & ICCS recently. He is currently Deputy Zone Captain for North East and also engaged the public at various Toddycats exhibitions including Festival of Biodiversity.

It is now August and the team has finished the preliminary recces, the registration, the ICCS Organiser’s Workshop, just finished the ICCS Site Buddies Briefing and are in “Phase IV: Execution”. We are finishing up Site Recces with Organisers and soon, it will be September and show time!

In 2008, Raffles Museum Toddycats added one more role to the coastal cleanup contributions by sending a team to initiate the Pandan Mangrove cleanup as an Organiser. Staff and students of the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore were roped in to tackle what was then a Category 5 site. We have been at Pandan Mangrove for four years now, clearing and documenting the marine trash there with others and the site is looking much better!

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This year, Toddycats have been tasked with setting up a new site at Berlayar Creek in Labrador Park. Our mission at the cleanup is to work with a small group of 20 and conduct a sensitive mangrove cleanup on 29 Sep 2012: 3.00 – 6.00pm. We will take great care to minimise impact while we are at work there!

Look out of the recruitment post next week and join us for a meaningful event in the month of September!

Local biodiversity and dinosaurs go to Geylang East Public Library!

A month after our successful exhibition at the Yishun Pond Rejuventated, the Raffles Museum Toddycats has once again set up another exhibition at the Geylang East Public Library on 10 Dec 2011. It was really great to see experienced and new Toddycats sharing stories and working together to make this event a memorable one! Everyone was enthusiastic, all smiles and ready to welcome the visitors when the library opened at 10am.

Wild Carnivores at the Library - Toddycats volunteers all ready to start the show!

This time, the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research kindly allowed the showcase of a real dinosaur vertebra from 150 million years ago! There were even paper crafts of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals from XinHeritage that helped children and adults to visualise the entire dinosaur skeleton.

Papercraft dinosaurs and dinosaurs books surrounded a real diplodocus vertebra fossil

Dinosaurs always get people of all ages excited; we used this opportunity to spread the excitement of the arrival of the three whole diplodocid skeletons (Apollo, Prince and Twinky), which will be the centerpiece of the new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum in 2014.

Happy volunteers with the dinosaur bones (Photo by Boh Zuze)

Reading all about the Diplodocus dinosaurs and how they live

Even the young ones were clearly thrilled by the sight of dinosaur papercrafts!

Besides the dinosaur bone showcase, there were many other specimens (eg. skulls, skeletons and many of our iconic local biodiversity specimens) on display! We also had a station with interactive games to play and for kids to understand various ecological concepts.

Toddycat Brandon Ang introduced visitors to our iconic dugong, small clawed otter and mangroves animals which fascinated many visitors!

Toddycat Joycelin uses a library book on snakes to educate the kids! They even got to view the snake skeleton prepared by Toddycat veteran Kok Oi Yee!

Toddycat Eunice Soh explains and shows to a family the position and function of the keel in the skeleton and how it helps the pigeon to be a good flier.

An elated kid who finally beats Toddycat Marcus Tay in getting a higher dice roll at snakes & ladders

Throughout the day, there were also talks scheduled, with prizes to be won if one gave the correct answers to the questions asked by the presenter –

  • 11am – Marcus Chua on “The Secrets of Ubin’s wildlife”
  • 12pm – Amanda Tan Hui-Ning on “The Adventures of the Red Jungle Fowl”
  • 2pm – Meryl Theng on “Singapore’s River Otters”.
  • 3pm – Me (Weiting Xu) on “Stalking the Civets of Siglap”
  • 4pm – Ong Say Lin on “The return of the Wild Pig”
  • 5pm – Fung Tze Kwan on “The fruit-loving Common Palm Civet”

Most of the talks were well-attended and many kids listened attentively in hopes of winning the pretty jigsaw puzzle prize which features our local biodiversity.

Marcus' talk introduced many people to the wildlife of Pulau Ubin!

Meryl captivates the attention of the crowd with stories and images of the smooth-coated otters in Singapore waters.

A happy kid gives the right answer and gets a prize from SayLin!

At the end of the day,we reached out to an estimated total of 130 individuals (adults and children). Although this number was not high, each individual had personalised attention from the guides and many of them stayed for 20 – 3o minutes,  thoroughly combing through each of the stations to learn more about our local biodiversity. Even some of the kids, whose curiosities were piqued, borrowed related books! We also received public feedback to bring the same exhibition to other public libraries around Singapore! This is very encouraging for Toddycats’ first attempt at a public library, and we really hope that we can reach out to other local branches.

The event would not have been a success without the help of Junius Soh, Janice Lee & Ong Saylin to help with transportation, thanks to Kelvin Lim (RMBR) for helping us with the specimens preparation, Hazelina Yeo and staff of RMBR for helping us with the dinosaur bone showcase! Besides transportation, we want to express gratitude to the photographers, Foo Fang Chee, Boh Zuze and Kenneth Pinto for capturing the priceless interaction between the guides and people. Lastly, the volunteers who helped to made a difference, many of you took time and effort to prepare for this event and all your hard work is greatly appreciated – Jocelyne Sze, Cheong Shu Min, Nandini Srinivasan, Lim Huan Hock, Marcus Chua, Ong Saylin, Meryl Theng, Tan Hui-Ning Amanda, Eunice Soh, Yang Yi Yong, Joycelin Teo, Lee Benjamin, Lee Kai Xin, Letchumi d/o Mani, Marcus Tay, Vivien Lee, Kong Ching Wan, Wong Jinfa, Foo Maosheng, Pang Wei Han, Kok Oi Yee, Ivan Kwan, Lim Kim Yong, Brandon Ang, Deanna Lye, David Tan, Jeremy Ng, Wu Bokai & Zestin Soh.

Our guides shared stories and helped connect the kids and adults with nature during their stay at the library exhibition. A positive atmosphere with lots of laughter and smiles was established, and many left with a twinkle in their eyes and joy on their faces. Hopefully, the specimens and the dinosaur vertebra will help to inspire our next generation of biologists (and paleontologists)!

Toddycats Engage! preparing for Wild Carnivores at the Library exhibition

Raffles Museum Toddycats are once again busy preparing for our upcoming exhibition at the Geylang East Public Library! After our recruitment run, we had 22 volunteers who turned up for the training session yesterday, Thursday, 8th Dec 2011!

Toddycat Marcus Tay who is a International Coastal Cleanup Singapore veteran was both delighted and surprised to meet this big group of new volunteers! We are also very glad that many of our new volunteers are NUS Life Sciences undergraduates who have decided to spend their holidays in a very meaningful way! Toddycats welcome both NUS, non-NUS, biology and non-biology volunteers as long as they are passionate about nature and eager to interact with the public.

During the get to know you session where each volunteer shared why they wanted to join Toddycats, it was really great to hear some students expressing their wish to share their knowledge with the public instead of just memorising them as theory.

All new Toddycats Engage! volunteers get a sneak peek of the specimens to be showcased at the exhibition!

It is important to conduct a training session before every exhibition event because this will not only allow us to get to know each other, it is also a great opportunity for experienced guides to share interesting stories with the new volunteers.  Toddycats also get to learn the importance of giving accurate information and to be extremely careful when handling the museum specimens.

Civet girls, Tze Kwan and myself, sharing information about the Toddycat, our last wild urban carnivore and the threats it faces in urban Singapore.

At the end of the training session, many stayed to help out with the packing of the specimens that we will be bringing down to Geylang East Public Library on Saturday. It was very heartening to see Toddycats all cheery, enthusiastic and ready for show time  tomorrow!

Toddycat Ivan Kwan writes about this session on his Lazy Lizard Tales blog with a sneak preview at the specimens we’ll have to show you, and the volunteers who have plenty of stories to share!

Interested in finding out what our volunteers are looking at? Join us tomorrow at Geylang East Public Library!

Wild carnivores going to Geylang East Public Library, Sat 10th Dec 2011!

Wild Carnivores are going to the Geylang East Public Library on 10th December 2011, Sat! This is the Raffles Museum Toddycats’ third exhibition in 2011, following the Biodiversity of Singapore III and the Yishun Pond Rejuvenated.

An exciting day of talks, papercrafts and animal specimens

The preparations for this event has been ongoing! Everything is in order, enthusiastic volunteers with great stories to tell, animal specimens and dinosaur bone all ready. Lastly, since we are at a library, we also have exciting books available for any one who is interested in finding out more!

Check out the exciting selection of local biodiversity and dinosaur books! They are all readily available for loan at the Geylang East Public Library.

So come join us tomorrow from 10am to 6pm! It will definitely be a fun time of learning and sharing at the Geylang East Public Library!