The Toddy Cat and the Palm Leaf

An explanation of the logo of Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS


The Toddy Cat and the Palm Leaf
The city-dwelling Singaporean shares the island with a secret world. A remnant but surprising richness of plant and animal life, has survived the impact of modern Singapore, and is testament to Southeast Asian biodiversity. And part of it remains woven into our lives, a heritage of the culture of the people and biodiversity of the land. One of the local missions of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research is to promote a celebration of this heritage.

Common Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) - An urban survivor inhabiting a secret world
The Common Palm Civet is also known as the Toddy Cat due to an apparent predilection for fermented fruits of palm trees, a raw version of the alcoholic toddy drink! Unlike other civets, Toddy is an urban survivor, and in Singapore, is the only wild carnivore surviving the city.

Commonly residing in roofs of houses, gardens and parks, they travel between houses via telephone wires, poles and trees. Often mistaken for cats or rats in the roof, Toddy eats flesh and fruit with equal gusto.

Seven of the eight species of world's palm civets are found in Southeast Asia. They are secretive and elegant animals residing in the threatened forests of Asia, and even now, we know very little about them!


Palm leaf (The Palm family, Palmae) - Conspicuous, familiar, useful and diverse.
Palms epitomise the tropics, and their characteristic fan and feather-shaped leaves lean into decent photographs of sun-kissed beaches! Singapore has more species of palms than the entire African continent, for palm diversity reaches its peak in the eastern tropics with about 100 genera, and more than 1,300 species!

The life of modern city dweller remains entwined with the palms. We thirstily drink the sweet fluids of the coconut (Cocos nucifera) and the current popular "pearl tea" (from the sago palm, Metroxylon sp.). In the midst of a plate of ice-kacang, we would chew enthusiastically on 'attap chee' (from the Nypa or Atap palm, Nypa fruticans). The pacifying view of Lipstick (Cyrtostachys renda) and Fishtail (Caryota mitis) palms greet strollers at all corners of the island. And even the rod wielded for a spanking was from a rattan palm.

Yet the secrets of the palms on a hill as small as Bukit Timah have yet to be totally unravelled!

 

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Last updated on Thursday, February 17, 2005 3:18 PM