Dinosaurs part of Singapore's 'deep' history

Straits Times Forum 19 Jul 11;

WE WOULD like to comment on two interesting commentaries on our current endeavours to bring dinosaurs to the new natural history museum in Singapore.

We are delighted that Ms Ong Sor Fern ('What have dinosaurs got to do with S'pore?'; last Saturday) enjoyed her visit to the old museum and recognises the importance of having a new natural history museum that features Singapore's plant and animal life.

We remain committed to this and 90 per cent of the new gallery will celebrate the biodiversity of Singapore and South-east Asia. We are also planning for a heritage gallery that will showcase material from the original museum.

The funding from the initial donations has already been earmarked for safeguarding the historic collections and exhibiting these specimens.

However, modern natural history museums should not feature only today's biodiversity because it gives the erroneous impression that the planet's biota does not change. That is why all major museums use fossils of extinct species to introduce ancient 'lost worlds'. We must also remember that more than 100 million years ago, Singapore was part of a huge continent called Laurasia, a landmass on which dinosaurs roamed.

Dinosaurs are therefore part of Singapore's 'deep' history. Unfortunately, Singapore's tropical climate is not conducive to preserving dinosaur fossils. This is why we have started a fund-raising effort to acquire three spectacular dinosaurs that will educate the public about the history of life. These are also of exceptional scientific value because they are the best-preserved large sauropods ('long-necks') that have been unearthed in decades. They would anchor our exhibit on geological change, which would also feature Singapore's palaeontological history.

As to their educational value, Mr Ignatius Low ('Why we need dinos'; Sunday) rightfully observed that dinosaurs 'inspire and awe'. There is no doubt that dinosaurs attract visitors of all ages and backgrounds, and we can then be more effective in teaching them about global biodiversity, extinction and conservation. We see the specimens as a major catalyst for research and education, and are also convinced that they will significantly increase the visitorship to the galleries dedicated to Singapore's natural history.

Unfortunately, we will be able to showcase these specimens only if our fund-raising drive is successful. We hope Singaporeans will help us bring these dinosaurs to Singapore.

Professor Rudolf Meier
Chairman, Scientific Advisory Committee
Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
National University of Singapore

Professor Peter Ng
Director, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
National University of Singapore

Professor Leo Tan
Director, Special Projects, Faculty of Science and
Chairman, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
Fund-Raising Committee