$1.3million raised for Singapore whale exhibition

A glimpse of the whale exhibit, which will be hung at eye-level within the museum's gallery from March 15, 2016. PHOTO: LEE KONG CHIAN NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

SINGAPORE - About $1.3 million has been raised for scientific and educational efforts related to the sperm whale discovered in Singapore waters last July.

The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum's had initially planned to raise $1 million to mount and maintain the exhibit and support related education and research efforts.

Members of the public can view the whale exhibit, which will be hung at eye-level within the museum's gallery, from March 15.

The money has come from organisations and individuals, some of whom attended a fundraising dinner at Singapore Zoo on Saturday night.

Teacher Heng Pei Yan, 29, one of the donors present at the event, said: "The whale was a very special appearance, not just for the museum but also for Singapore."

Professor Peter Ng, head of the museum, said he was pleasantly surprised by the amount raised, given that the initial $1 million target was an ambitious one.

"We know it will take half that amount to get the whale skeleton ready in record time and set up a world-class display," Prof Ng told The Straits Times at the Jubilee Whale Charity Gala Dinner. "And we had hoped to have the same amount set aside for marine education and research programmes."

Mr Guy Harvey-Samuel, chief executive of HSBC Singapore, which donated $150,000, said: "We hope that our efforts will help to nurture a strong appreciation of biodiversity in the community, in particular among our children and youth."

The museum intends to use the whale as a symbol to highlight the importance of keeping the oceans healthy.

Sperm whales feed mainly on squid, which have beaks that cannot be digested.

Mr Marcus Chua, the museum's curator of mammals and birds, said: "On top of the squid beaks, we also found plastic trash in the whale's gut. This find will be used in our outreach efforts to highlight how oceans are connected, and dangers of marine trash."

Sperm whales are the largest carnivorous animals. They are regarded by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as vulnerable to extinction.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong was guest of honour at the event, also attended by Ambassador-at-Large Professor Tommy Koh and some 200 other guests.

The carcass of the 10.6m-long adult female sperm whale was discovered floating off Jurong Island on July 10 - the first time that the marine mammal has been spotted in Singapore waters.

It was later dubbed Jubi Lee because it was found during the nation's Golden Jubilee year.

Since its discovery, museum staff worked for seven months to preserve the skeleton and to collect as much data as possible from the carcass.

During Saturday's event, Prof Ng and Mr Chua regaled guests with the story of the whale's discovery and how it was secured.

Researchers had to work with authorities to find a location to place the carcass and figure out how to tow the 9-tonne carcass onto the Tuas Marine Transfer Station without it breaking apart.

Researchers then worked for 71 days to collect as much data from the carcass, before it was moved to the museum located within the National University of Singapore.

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