MIRACLE RODENTS NOW ON EXHIBIT AT SINGAPORE ZOO

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- BIZARRE-LOOKING NAKED MOLE RATS MAY HOLD SECRET TO LONGEVITY
- LATEST OFFERING SHOWCASES THESE CURIOUS CREATURES’ UNDERGROUND LIFE

Singapore, 7 March 2012 – They are hairless, buck-toothed and very nearly blind. Pick one of these creatures up and you’ll realise that they smell really bad. It’s probably from all the rolling about in their own fecal matter so they’ll smell like one big happy family. Smelly or not, scientists believe that naked mole rats’ genetic material holds the secret to a long life – they can live over 20 years, almost eight times longer than mice.

These little rodents, only one of two mammals known to have a social structure similar to social insects, now have a huge exhibit all to themselves—Singapore Zoo’s first foray into showcasing such little creatures on a comparatively large scale.

Wrinkled “sausages” with teeth: Naked mole rats have lips that close behind the teeth. This way, they don’t end up with a mouthful of dirt when digging and burrowing!

The exhibit mimics their system of burrows in the wild in order to provide a naturalistic environment for them. Naked mole rats have burrow systems extending up to 4.8 kilometres long in the wild and covering an area as big as six football fields.

Singapore Zoo’s exhibit, measuring 50 square metres, is a scaled-down version of their complex living environment. Constructed with steel and concrete, it also has glass-fronted panels for visitors to view the naked mole rats at work and play. Lighting is kept dim, as these creatures are used to living in dark environments.

Tunnel vision: Guests peering at the naked mole rats in their ‘natural’ home!

Did you know the tunnels are actually completely man-made! This is how the intricate system of tunnels looks like from the back of house area.

To facilitate convenient cleaning, two identical sets of burrow systems were constructed. Each set is washed and switched every month, then lined with pine shavings to keep them clean and relatively odourless. It is hard work, as the components of the exhibit are extremely sturdy – a necessary defense against the strong teeth of these rats. Unfortunately, these little creatures seem to possess superhuman strength, and have already managed to make dents in some of the concrete components, much to the dismay of their keepers!

Though only recently opened, the naked mole rat exhibit is already a popular spot for curious visitors

An interactive element was also added – a pint-sized tunnel for children to crawl through and imagine a day in the life of a naked mole rat. Periscopes and child-friendly interpretive and activity panels complete the educational component of this exhibit.

Mind your head, for these tunnels are made for little humans only

“Having such an accessible and engaging exhibit allows us to observe the behaviour of these fascinating critters closely, as such animals cannot be studied so easily in the wild. Singapore Zoo hopes to be able to contribute to the education and research of this species, and at the same time introduce the lesser-known wonders of nature to our guests,” said Dr Sonja Luz, Director, Conservation, Research and Learning Centre, Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Come visit and learn more about the naked mole rat at Singapore Zoo today! If these little creatures end up contributing to longer lives for all of us one day, you can tell everyone you saw them first at our Zoo!

Note: Daily feeding sessions are held at 11.30am

MEET THE SECRETIVE AND SHY TODDY CAT AT NIGHT SAFARI

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NIGHT SAFARI OPENS ONE OF ITS LATEST EXHIBITS TO BRING THE PUBLIC CLOSER TO THESE NATIVE CRITTERS

Singapore, 4 November 2011 – If you spot one of these shy and furry creatures right at your doorstep, don’t be alarmed. They are native, nocturnal animals called common palm civets, locally known as toddy cats, which live in our forests and parks. Five of these adorable toddy cats are currently on display at the Night Safari, boosting its collection of endangered native animals and enabling visitors to learn more about this species.

Visitors can now observe the toddy cats and their nocturnal foraging behaviour in a huge enclosure simulating a ‘kampong’ scene. To reflect the species’ history in Singapore, the exhibit features chicken coops, coconuts and baskets, which convey a typical village feel. The ‘kampong house’ is made of real thatched roofs and house plants that are commonly found in villages such as banana trees, serai and tapioca.

The toddy cat – known as musang in Malay – is one of the last wild carnivores which can still be seen around residential areas in Siglap and forests in Bukit Timah, the Central Catchment, Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong. They range in parts of South Asia and Southeast Asia. The animal earned its name from its apparent liking for the sap from palm trees that is used to produce the alcoholic drink, ‘toddy’.

The toddy cat enclosure covers a total area of over 126 m2 and is one of the latest exhibits to open at the Night Safari.

“We would like visitors to leave our parks with increased knowledge and awareness of wildlife conservation through our animal exhibits. In this case, we hope they will appreciate some of our native species such as the common palm civets, so as to minimise human-animal conflict in our urban environment. It is important that we preserve the natural wildlife of Singapore for future generations to come,” said Mr. Kumar Pillai, General Manager of Night Safari, which is operated by Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), together with Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park and the upcoming River Safari.

Another unique feature of the exhibit is that it has an educational interpretive where visitors can learn more about the plight of this wild resident of Singapore, whose natural habitat has been encroached by humans through the years. It also showcases items associated with the animal such as packets of kopi luwak, one of the world’s most expensive coffee beans produced from coffee berries that pass through the toddy cat’s digestive tract. Known to be excellent climbers with a preference to stay in trees, these Night Safari residents will also enjoy climbing up and down three finely crafted tree trunks and vines.

WRS is currently working with various governmental organizations such as the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore and National Parks Board to rehabilitate and relocate captured toddy cats. We have rehabilitated and released a total of 57 civets since 2009. More recently, WRS is looking into radio-collaring civets to be released into the wild to study their range, survival and integration of this species in the new habitat.

The Night Safari had collaborated with the National University of Singapore to study the toddy cat population, specifically in the Siglap and Opera Estate areas. The project aimed to educate and encourage residents to live harmoniously with these creatures of the night. Recently, a team from Night Safari also conducted a talk on these native animals to students at Temasek Junior College.

Toddy cats are native animals that are distinguished by their shaggy grey hair, the three rows of black markings on their bodies and the black mask that goes across their eyes and noses.

Visitors at the Night Safari can now observe the toddy cats and their nocturnal foraging behaviour in a huge enclosure simulating a “kampong” scene

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