Visitors can get a closer look at the Singapore Whale at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
Photos: Audrey Tan
Get up close to the Singapore Whale at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
By Audrey Tan, 14th March 2016;
Get up close to the Republic’s very own Moby Dick from Tuesday (March 15), when the skeleton of a Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) found here goes on display at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.
The exhibit, on display at the mammals section, was unveiled on Monday evening by Ms Ho Ching, chief executive of Temasek Holdings, at the official launch of the Jubilee Whale Exhibit.
Unlike most other Whale skeleton exhibits, that are usually hung horizontally near the ceiling, the Singapore Whale will be displayed in a diving pose, with its enormous skull just 1m off the floor.
“We wanted to give the Whale a natural pose in a limited space,” explained museum conservator Kate Pocklington, who was part of the museum’s team of five researchers involved in the preservation of the skeleton.
Other than marvelling at the sheer size of the marine mammal, visitors to the museum, in the National University of Singapore, can also learn more about its biology, the threats faced by these creatures, and the story of its discovery.
The carcass of the 10.6m-long adult female Sperm Whale was found floating off Jurong Island on July 10, 2015 – the first time that the marine mammal has been spotted in Singapore waters.
It was nicknamed Jubi Lee by staff at the museum, as it had been found during the nation’s Golden Jubilee year.
After it was found, researchers from the museum worked for months to preserve the skeleton and collect as much data as possible from the carcass.
The museum’s head, Professor Peter Ng, told The Straits Times that it was rare for the Whale skeleton to be preserved and mounted in just eight months.
“In most countries, the carcass is buried, allowed to rot, and only after several years is the skeleton excavated. Months or years may pass before the skeleton is made ready,” he said.
“We have expedited the process through very hard work – no mean feat. And it did not come cheap.”
The museum has raised about $1.3 million for scientific and educational efforts related to the Sperm Whale carcass.
Half of it went to setting up the exhibit, while the remaining half will be used for marine biodiversity education and research.
The museum intends to use the Whale to highlight the importance of keeping the oceans healthy.
Sperm Whales feed mainly on squid, which have beaks that cannot be digested. But researchers also found plastic trash in the whale’s gut.
Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh, who attended a fundraising dinner for the whale in February, said he was overjoyed by the return of a Whale to Singapore.
The skeleton of a 13m-long Indian Fin Whale (a disused name for Blue Whale) (Balaenoptera musculus) had been displayed at the old National Museum from 1907 to 1974 before it was presented as a gift to Malaysia.
Prof Koh said: “Jubi Lee is even better than the Whale we gave away because it was found in our waters, because it belongs to a species seldom found in our waters, and because the skeleton is in perfect order.”