Fear and Ambivalence in Singapore: Mapping the Saltwater Crocodile in the Singapore Consciousness (Wed, 13 September 2017)

Speaker: Kate Pocklington (Conservator, NUS Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum)
Date: Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS8, Level 6, Conference Room (06-46)


In the 1820s, William Farquhar’s dog was eaten by a crocodile on the bank of the Rochor River. The 1849 autobiography Hikayat Abdullah, by Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, stated this was ‘the first time people knew there were crocodiles in Singapore’. By 1996, the IUCN assessed saltwater crocodiles as being ‘regionally extinct’ in Singapore. Yet, over the last few years, Pocklington’s research has uncovered over 380 present and historic records of crocodiles in Singapore showing that whilst they are indeed elusive, they have never left our waters. The alleged realisation of their existence here nearly 200 years ago did not account for the extensive cultural manifestations and equivocal human relationships. Much of the cultural significance has been surrendered in distortions of new perceptions; once considered territorial protectors and reincarnations of warriors, crocodiles have become victim to habitat destruction, governmental incentives for eradication, and a booming international skin trade. For some, crocodiles appear to be nothing more than a dangerous predator, but there is a juncture in which their histories unfold a mapping of conversations, systems of belief and the connection between human and nature. Where do these parallels and collisions of the ‘predator and prey’ dynamic cross the paths of co-existence?

About the speaker

Kate Pocklington is the Conservator at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) at the National University of Singapore. She studied fine art and graphic design, and later Conservation and Restoration at the University of Lincoln in the UK. She began working at LKCNHM in 2012 after her five-year ground work as natural history conservator in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Pocklington focuses her art and research on nature, culture, and societal change of the destructive human-nature parallels. This often creates a connection between her art and her career: preventing degradation, revitalising the past of science and nature, and looking behind and beyond. She is currently active in a collaboration between LKCNHM and NUS Museum with the prep-room project Buaya: The making of a non-myth held at NUS Museum.