The first Kids’ Musang Watch organised by Cicada Tree Eco-Place on Sunday, 22 May 2011, was a success! All of us saw the musang and went home learning more about the musang and her forest friends!
Weiting and I arrived early at Siglap at 5.15pm and were greeted by a civet poo poo! Instinctively, I took a photograph and examined the poo. From the smell alone, I knew there were animal parts in the poop. True enough, I found centipede legs, wings amongst the partially digested rain tree pod and grass!
We met up with Vilma and proceeded to set up the projector and helped out with the registration as people started arriving. Among the volunteers were friends from Cicada Tree Eco-Place and Nature Society Singapore – Andrew, Gloria, Tim, Yue Yun, and Lena! With us were also a few NTU students whom Vilma knows and will be going to yunnan for a youth expedition project. They want to help CTEP with activities as part of their pre and post expedition. While waiting for all participants to arrive, some kids were happily exploring the field!
The event started with a talk by Vilma on Mily the Musang and her forest friends. Vilma shared about the common palm civets and other mammals using photographs and by asking the children to tell her what they see and know. It was quite impressive that these children aged 6-12 know that civets are nocturnal and that colugo glides and not fly!
In addition, the children were also very enthusiastic and were very willing to share what they know! They had many questions to ask too! One kid had a question about civets and SARS which Weiting explained patiently that the animal that was implicated in the outbreak of SARS was actually the masked palm civets and not our common palm civets. However, this also points to the danger of possible outbreak of virus and danger of interspecies transmission of virus if we consume wildlife (bushmeat) or live in close proximity due to the loss of their natural habitats caused by human actions. I shared about the diet of the common palm civets with the audience. The children responded with an ‘eeeeeeeeeeeee’ when Vilma introduced me by saying that I studied the poo poo of the musang. Vilma brought along fruits such as the chiku and noni to show the children and soon we heard “Smelly!” everywhere! It was also heartening to hear children saying that “civets help plants to reproduce” when I talked about civets defecating seeds in the poo poo!
The talk ended with “Make A Difference” and when asked how they can make a difference, some children said build a home for the civets (Andrew mentioned the civets will prefer their natural home – the forests), others mentioned fining people who mistreat the civets!
We then brought the children and parents around to look for the civets in groups. For the welfare of the civets, the participants were told to speak quietly, not to use flash photography, and only the guides held the torchlight. All of us managed to sight the civets and there was one that even ‘cat walked’ up and down on the electric cable! Both children and adults were fascinated when they saw the wild civets! Some parents even asked me about Kopi Luwak and my study, and also feedback that this event allowed them to realise that we still have wildlife amongst us! Weiting also told me that there were parents who asked her about the sounds the civets make, the litter size of the civets and the number of civets living in Siglap!
Everyone was happy at the end of the event!
There was this little girl who was disappointed at the start of the walk as we could not find any civets but with some encouragement, she continued looking for the civet and her patience paid off! I could not forget the smile on her face when she came running to me, telling me excitedly, “I saw it already!”
All of us were so glad that this event turned out to be a success and that there are many people who are interested in native animals (30 kids were registered for this event)! Education is the way to go and hopefully, this is the first of the many other civet educational events that may be conducted in future!
Special thanks to Vilma for this wonderful opportunity for us to share about the civets!