Monday, May 28, 2012

Vote Monday Morgue!


Me in my element: Guiding as a volunteer with the Raffles Museum Toddycats!.
(Photo by Boh Zuze)

It's been such a fun and fulfilling weekend at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, sharing interesting stories about Singapore's wildlife and wild places with members of the public. And I'm really pleased that my talk about the importance of documenting dead animals was very well-received. I'll write about my weekend soon enough, but now that the fun and festivities from the Festival of Biodiversity are over, it's time for Monday Morgue to focus on another significant event: the Singapore Blog Awards. If you recall, I'm currently a finalist in the Sold.sg Best What-the-Hell Blog category.

Voting opened on Monday, and everyone can cast one vote per category every day until 30th June. I hope that I'll be able get more support, not just from friends who are familiar with this blog, but also with new readers. A big thanks to Crystal and Jerome, who are finalists in other categories, and who have shown their support for Monday Morgue!

In the meantime, while I prepare a nice blog post to show you all about what happened at the Festival of Biodiversity, here's a short interview for the Singapore Blog Awards:

How do you feel about being one of Finalists in Singapore Blog Awards 2012?
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Orange-spotted Grouper @ Pulau Ubin

I'm really thrilled to be selected as a finalist! Mainly because I feel that there is a very strong nature blogging community in Singapore, but it has been overlooked by many in the local blogosphere; we all know about blogs written by people based in Singapore that focus on subjects such as politics, food, fashion, beauty, and gadgets, but Singapore's nature blogs are sadly still quite relatively obscure, despite drawing impressive numbers of readers and attention from all around the world. Monday Morgue is quite a unique blog in terms of its focus, but through it, I hope that more Singaporeans will be able to discover the beauty of Singapore's wildlife, and that there are things that we as ordinary citizens can do to reduce the threats to our often fragile habitats and ecosystems.
When did you start blogging and what drew you to it? Where do you get inspiration for your blog content?
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Changeable Lizard @ Bukit Panjang

I started blogging way back in mid-2003, with a personal blog that became a dumping ground for rants, a journal for my adventures, as well as random links and articles I discovered on the Internet. I stopped writing for some time, then resumed in 2008 with a blog entitled The Lazy Lizard's Tales, focusing entirely on nurturing my passion for nature, wildlife and conservation. I realised that I am very enthusiastic where it comes to talking and sharing about wildlife and conservation topics, and have dedicated much of my time towards volunteering as a guide with local nature interest groups. Blogging serves as another platform to reach out to people and share the message that despite the massive loss of our original habitats over the last few centuries due to development, Singapore does still possess lots of fascinating biodiversity, but the future of its wildlife and wild places is not secure unless Singaporeans care enough to want to protect and learn how to balance development with an appreciation for nature and conservation.

Monday Morgue started out originally as a weekly series on The Lazy Lizard's Tales; I love the outdoors, and explore and visit many nature areas in Singapore on a regular basis. On these trips, I frequently stumbled upon the carcasses of dead animals. Some had possibly died of natural causes, while others had clearly been killed as a result of human activities. I started developing a morbid fascination for taking photos of the carcasses or other remains of animals. Unlike many of my friends, I don't have a DSLR camera with nice expensive gear such as telephoto or macro lens or tripods to take nice photos of birds or butterflies. What I like is that dead animals don't run or swim away, don't get stressed when you get too close, and better still, can be rearranged or repositioned if they are hidden and you can't take decent photos.

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Spotted Green Puffer @ Changi
The photo that started it all: My very first Monday Morgue entry;

I eventually moved Monday Morgue to a dedicated site of its own in 2011, and this is the site that you see today.

What inspires me? It's more than just a morbid interest in posting photos of dead animals and grossing people out, it's also about showing clear examples of wildlife that can be found in Singapore. Many people don't realise how much wildlife has managed to survive, and if we don't know what natural treasures we possess, we won't care enough to want to protect it in the long term. One thing in particular that drives me is the desire to tell stories about the many causes behind the deaths of wildlife in Singapore.

Some of the animals featured here probably died of natural causes, but others are very likely to have been killed because of human activities of some sort. Whether it's snakes getting run over by cars, birds flying into buildings, a seashore wiped out by an oil spill, anglers leaving behind nets that entangle and kill marine life, or well-meaning people who believe that they are doing good deeds by releasing animals, but sometimes in the wrong environment, I do often try to show real-life examples of how human beings can end up killing animals, even if it's not on purpose. It often saddens and even angers me when I come upon examples of how an animal was unnecessarily killed by human activities, such as accounts of birds being killed because they got entangled in fishing lines, or people thinking that they are acting for the good of their pets by releasing abandoning captive birds, turtles or fishes in the park or reservoir, when in fact they most probably condemned these animals to a slow, agonising death.

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Javan Myna @ Tampines

The animals featured here are all already dead, and although we can weep or rant all day long if we see a carcass of a rare and endangered species, nothing we do will ever revive them. What matters is that we can learn valuable lessons from the dead. Hopefully, the content in some of the posts on Monday Morgue can serve as catalysts for people to find out more about issues such as deforestation, the problems caused by urban development near forests and other nature areas, and the irresponsible behaviour of other people. By raising awareness of these threats, many of us in the nature blogging community in Singapore hope that this can then help people be better informed when we are discussing issues such as littering and clearing of land to make way for housing and other developments, and how wildlife can be negatively affected. Ultimately, our ability to understand these problems on a local, regional, and even global scale can help give conservation a much-needed boost and the attention it rightfully deserves, and lead to feedback that can help influence and shape public policy to build a Singapore that shows a widespread and genuine appreciation for our natural heritage. I may be an idealist at times, but there's no harm in daring to dream big.

I've also recently started the trend of posting photos of dead animals sent in by others, and it turns out that many people do encounter very interesting examples of dead wildlife, often representing species that I have yet to see for myself. In this way, people all over Singapore can contribute to further knowledge of what animals can be found living in Singapore, a better understanding of how human behaviour and activities affect wildlife, and even alert us to rare specimens that can be retrieved for future research and education purposes.
How do you feel about the other Finalists in your category this year? How do you think you will fare compared to them?
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Horn-eyed Ghost Crab @ Sentosa

I've taken a brief glance at most of the other Finalists' blogs, and while I can't say that I am familiar with them, I have read some posts which I find amusing or interesting. On the other hand, I feel that Monday Morgue stands out because it has a singular focus. The only other Finalist in this category that has a particular theme and sticks to it is The Neo Tokyo Project, which is dedicated to cosplay. I'm not too humble to state that Monday Morgue does cover a rather... strange topic, even as far as nature bloggers are concerned; it is quite underground and unorthodox in terms of subject matter, and according to many of my friends, checking out the latest updates on Monday Morgue often makes them go, "What the Hell!" I'm not aggressively vying to win this category, especially since this is my first time as a finalist, but it would be fun to see how many more people end up reading Monday Morgue. And as long as more people become aware of Singapore's biodiversity through visiting (and hopefully voting for) Monday Morgue, and understand the need for conservation of our natural spaces, then it is a gain for the nature blogging community.

Here's an example of one such photo that has drawn quite dramatic reactions. It's the decomposing carcass of a domestic dog, which I found on the KTM railway tracks in Buona Vista last year, back when the trains still terminated at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Most probably a stray, the dog had clearly picked the wrong time to dash across the tracks.

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Domestic Dog @ Buona Vista
Give a reason why readers should visit your blog and vote for you?
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Rare-spined Murex @ Pasir Ris

Nature and conservation are topics that have been overlooked and underappreciated by many Singaporeans, even though we pride ourselves in being the Garden City, with numerous parks and green spaces scattered across the island. There are many other excellent local nature blogs, but as far as I know, mine is the only Singapore-based blog that looks exclusively at dead animals. How's that for being unique? ;)

If you want something to liven up your dreary Monday mornings, or wake you up when you arrive at work still half-asleep, then I advise that you give the contents of Monday Morgue a try. At the same time, you can also learn some interesting information about Singapore's wildlife, with links to more comprehensive resources on the Internet for you to discover more about the animals featured. It's entertaining, builds up your resistance to gory and graphic images (excellent for maintaining that poker face while watching Saw or The Human Centipede), and best of all, it's educational!

You can check out Monday Morgue's Facebook page, follow me on Twitter via my profile @Varanussalvator, or the hashtags #MondayMorgue and #DailyDecay, or follow @MondayMorgue on Instagram.

Coming up soon enough, a recap of my weekend as a volunteer guide, as well as snippets from my talk. In the meantime, do vote for Monday Morgue!

(Cross-posted to Monday Morgue)

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