NUS Civet Research Team (NCRT) is glad to be part of another successful Musang Watch! Similar to the previous one that Cicada Tree Eco-Place (CTEP) organised in May 2011, this time round, the 2nd Musang Watch was conducted by a group of NIE teachers for a group of 20 Zhonghua Primary School students. This 2nd Musang Watch was part of the NIE teachers’ initiative and they even had a follow-up session with the Zhonghua students the following week.
Tze Kwan and I reached the campsite at 6.30pm and by then all the students from Zhonghua Primary had arrived and were ready for their adventure to see civets during nightfall. The students were encouraged to spray insect repellant to prevent mosquito bites and were having snacks before the event started.
The event started with Vilma and Andrew from CTEP, giving the students a talk on Mily the Musang and her forest friends. The students were shown photos of the native biodiversity such as the civets, banded leaf monkeys, slow lorises and also leopard cats! Both Andrew and Vilma constantly asked the kids how they would tell one animal from another and what they should do to make a difference. During the talk, Tze Kwan also enlightened them about the diet of the urban civets while I told them about where urban civets live and where we will be looking for them during the nightwalk.
So once it was nightfall, it was time for the kids to go out to see the civets! The students were reminded that they should be considerate for the civets, so they will need to move quietly and only guides were allowed to have torches. The students were split up into two groups and moved around the camp grounds quietly. After about ten minutes into the walk, we managed to see a family group of civets, one mummy and two babies! All the students were really excited by the three pairs of twinkling eyes given off by the civets’ eyeshine and we stood there for a long time observing them moving around in the undergrowth.
Besides this encounter, all the children managed to see another young civet lying snugly on the branches of the tree. This time, everyone managed to see the civet’s features up close!
After the close encounter, it was getting quite late, hence, we had to conclude the musang watch with some colouring and video recording of the children’s impression of the event. While many of them were happily colouring the cartoons of native animals, some were asked to record down their thoughts and feelings of the event. One of the kids, Emmanuel, enjoyed himself thoroughly and he wants to come back next time!
The 2nd Musang Watch was a success! During the event, I observed many smiling faces and could feel the excitement from the kids in trying to spot civets for themselves. It is this positive energy that children have that gives us hope in the area of human-animal conflict. We hope to conduct future events to educate people to respect and embrace animals, in order to realise our dream of peaceful co-existence between humans and animals.