Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum seeking funds for sperm whale exhibit

Bottom row (from left): Curator of Cyrogenic Collection Foo Maosheng, Conservator Kate Pocklington,  Curator of Mammals and Birds Marcus Chua. Top row (from left): Mr Joseph Koh, 66, Ms Peifen Koh, 65, Deputy General Manager of Expand Construction Ed
Bottom row (from left): Curator of Cyrogenic Collection Foo Maosheng, Conservator Kate Pocklington, Curator of Mammals and Birds Marcus Chua. Top row (from left): Mr Joseph Koh, 66, Ms Peifen Koh, 65, Deputy General Manager of Expand Construction Edwin Soh, and Deputy Head of LKC Natural History Museum Rudolf Meier.ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN
Mr Marcus Chua (second, left) explaining the science behind the whale's remains.
Mr Marcus Chua (second, left) explaining the science behind the whale's remains.ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN
(From left) Mr Foo Maosheng, Mr Marcus Chua, and Ms Kate Pocklington are part of the team putting together the whale's remains for the museum.
(From left) Mr Foo Maosheng, Mr Marcus Chua, and Ms Kate Pocklington are part of the team putting together the whale's remains for the museum.ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN

SINGAPORE - While efforts are ongoing to preserve Singapore's only sperm whale specimen, the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum is seeking funds to make its exhibit a fitting one.

Museum staff announced on Friday that they would need $1 million to mount the sperm whale exhibit at the museum. They said the funds could go towards making the exhibit more interactive, for instance, rather than just having the whale skeleton on display.

The funds will also go towards other areas such as the maintenance of the whale carcass and supporting related education and research efforts.

On July 10, an adult female sperm whale, 10.6m long and weighing between 8 and 10 tonnes, was found in Singapore waters for the first time. Unfortunately, it was dead. Its carcass was found floating off Jurong Island.

So far, a construction company and a couple have stepped forward to donate more than $50,000 for the project. Expand Construction donated $50,000, while Mr Joseph Koh, an honorary research affiliate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, and his wife, Mrs Koh Pei-fen, donated a five figure sum.

Mr Koh said that he and his wife decided to donate to the cause as the new whale skeleton will serve as "symbol of continuity" between the old and new museum.

He said: "This is our very own Singapore whale. If we can give the skeleton the pride of place at the new museum, it will be be a highly symbolic SG50 gift for Singaporeans."

Singapore got its first and only complete large whale carcass in 1892. The 13m-long baleen whale had been found beached in southern Malacca that year and its skeleton was subsequently displayed in the old National Museum from 1907 to 1974.

It was then presented as a gift to Malaysia's Muzium Negara and is now housed in the Labuan Marine Museum on the island of Labuan, off the coast of Sabah.

Mr Marcus Chua, curator at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum who is part of the team working on the whale, said that work on the whale carcass is 70 per cent complete and the carcass could be taken back to the museum as early as the end of next month.

Sperm whales are the largest toothed whales and largest carnivorous animals on earth. Adult males can grow longer than 20m and weigh more than 50 tonnes. The species is regarded by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as vulnerable to extinction.

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg