Friday, 28 September 2012

Bucket List, revised and updated

(Image credits:

Here's something to chew over for the weekend. My Significant Other and I have been creating our own Bucket Lists and lists of goals, as a way of determining our mutual priorities, goals and values. I believe it is almost inevitable that our individual Bucket Lists will grow or change over time, partly due to changes in our priorities, and partly due to the fact that some goals would have been achieved each year and could be taken off the list. So here's my Bucket List, revised and updated as of September 2012.

This is a two-way thing, so I would be gratified if you could share yours with me, either as a post, or as a comment to my post.


(i) Take my parents to see the Northern Lights, preferably in Stockholm.

(ii) Watch a match on Anfield's hallowed ground and visit the Beatles Museum in Liverpool.

(iii) Visit and/or volunteer at an animal shelter/nature sanctuary/ welfare home of every country I visit.

(iv) Volunteer at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre for at least a week.

(v) Earn my diving licence and do a coral reef dive cleanup.

(vi) Own a house and retrofit it into an energy and water efficient facility and grow my own organic/compost-grown fruits and vegetables at home.

(vii) Paraglide from Jugra Hill in Banting.

(viii) Attend and experience the Burning Man Festival.

(ix) Experience driving a real military armoured vehicle or tank.

(x) Earn my Masters degree.

(xi) Have a treehouse vacation.

(xii) Develop an induction and training programme for young and new volunteers at the SPCA and MNS.

(xiii) Learn and be conversant in international sign language.

(xiv) Climb to the peak of Mount Kinabalu.

(xv) Finish reading the Complete Works of Shakespeare.

(xvi) Become an early riser.

(xvi) Become a better and kinder listener.

(xvii) Be punctual at least 80% of the time.

(xviii) Have a piece of travel writing published in a book or esteemed publication.

(xix) Sample real truffle.

(xx) Save someone's life.

(xxi) Sample Bhoot Jolokia, the second hottest chili pepper in the world.

(xxii) Adopt a needy child, with no agenda other than to provide him/her with unconditional love and opportunities that he/she otherwise would not have.

(xxiii) Run a full marathon.

(xxiv) Create a medical trust fund for animal rescue groups in Malaysia that can be sustained even after my death.

(xxv) Donate whole blood at least 50 times in my lifetime.

(xxvi) Organise and coordinate an annual Turtle Volunteer Programme to enable others to volunteer.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

World Animal Day Celebrations at Desa Parkcity

SPCA Selangor decided to conduct its annual World Animal Day celebrations a week early this year to avoid the unpredictable monsoon weather commonly associated with the final three months of the year. Since 2011, we have been offered the use of the pet-friendly Central Park at Desa ParkCity for our event, thanks to the goodwill and generosity of the management of the said township. As my services are usually needed more frequently in the animal shelter or in advocacy and policy work, I rendered only minimal assistance for this event, since the Inspectorate and Marketing/Communications Team informed me that we have sufficient volunteers from the boy scouts and various schools and colleges helping out. I did, however, plan and prepare materials for an Animal Welfare Spot Quiz and a Photo Puzzle for the event as part of SPCA's education and awareness efforts.

This delightful little poster was created by Pyo to raise awareness about the event.

Good canine citizens taking their humans for a walk along the jogging track in the beautifully-landscaped park.

Being afforded the use of a park is a privilege. Let us not abuse this privilege. Remember to clean up after your companion animals, and leave each site better than when you found it.

Hero Dog Attila was given an award for her bravery in protecting her family members during a robbery. Hill's Science Plan supplied her with 3 months' worth of dog food as part of her award. Well done, Attila!

Folksy-looking handpainted bookmarks, produced by volunteer artist Felicia, on sale at the SPCA booth.

Visitors and volunteers gather around a playpen of puppies at the SPCA's Rent-A-Dog booth, to raise funds for the SPCA and for an introduction to hands-on responsible pet parenting. 

The Rent-A-Dog initiative was the brainchild of an advertising agency which had provided its services to the SPCA free of charge. I would say it is an effective idea, because one of our Rent-A-Dog shelter puppies was adopted at the end of 30 minutes. 

Tête-à-tête with puppies at the Rent-A-Dog tent. 

Aravind and I babysitting one of the shelter puppies who was brought here for the Rent-A-Dog initiative. 

My friends VJ and Sara, with my godson Aadhavan, turned up with their canine children, Aristocles (schnauzer) and Thangam (poodle) to demonstrate their support for our little event. 

Humans and dogs alike find the appeal of the clean little stream that runs through the park too much to resist. 

Escaped balloons (From the Waterfront Mall, not from our event site). I hope they won't end up in the sea or rainforest. Let's hope they land in an urban area and get swept up and disposed of properly.


We also met this lovely and brave kitty cat, who came here with her human. The kitty's name is Mimi and she is seen here reading our 2011 Annual Review. I didn't ask what happened to poor Mimi's other eye, but I can tell Mimi is very well cared for.

The Waterfront Mall, all decorated for the Mid-Autumn Festival. 


 Here are some basic rules to be considered when taking your dog out in public or to a pet-friendly park:

 1. ALWAYS clean up after your dog. Bring your own newspaper, waste bags, scooper, and hand sanitiser (optional). Desa ParkCity Central Park provides patrons with pet waste bags, but this is not an excuse not to come prepared with your own.

 2. Don't ever let your dog off-leash in an unfenced dog park if he/she is not responsive to your verbal commands.

3. Do not let your dog bully or harass other dogs or humans.

4. Do not allow dogs to form packs.

5. Do not bring unvaccinated or unneutered dogs to a park or to socialise with other dogs in public places.

6. Do not let your dog roam unsupervised while you talk on your phone. Do give your dog your full attention and be on the alert for potential trouble (e.g. unneutered male dogs, aggressive dogs, squirrels, cats, another human holding pet treats etc).

As with the previous years, even if you haven't made any plans for World Animal Day or do not have any companion animals, please consider taking the following pledge to improve the lives of animals:

1. I pledge to look after, protect and provide for all animals under my care; to arrange for alternative caregivers whenever I am away and to find solutions for boarding and rehoming should I find myself unable to care for my companion animals any longer. 

 2. I pledge to vaccinate and neuter my companion cats, dogs and and small animals (e.g. rabbits and hamsters) and to educate my family, friends and co-workers on the importance of vaccination, neutering and obtaining necessary licenses for one's companion animals. 

3. I pledge to gently advise neighbours who fail to provide proper care for their companion animals, and write to zoos, circuses, theme parks and other facilities that keep animals, in the event I witness any acts of neglect, ill-treatment or cruelty. If my advice should fail to bring about positive change in the treatment of the animals, I pledge to report the matter to the SPCA or relevant authorities such as the Wildlife and National Parks Department. 

 4. I pledge to assist the SPCA and animal welfare groups in finding homes for the animals under their care and advise my family and friends to spay/neuter their existing pets and adopt from shelters and pounds, rather than purchase from pet stores.

5. I pledge to live simply that animals may simply live. I will reduce, reuse and recycle more and use less fossil fuels and chemicals. I will dispose of hazardous materials such as paint, needles and cans with sharp edges carefully. I will use fewer plastics bags, polystyrene products and other materials that may pose a danger to stray animals and wildlife. 

6. I pledge to be a more careful driver that I may avoid harm to animals that share our roads and neighbourhoods. I will provide all the assistance I can to animals harmed by traffic and people. 

7. I pledge to vote against animal cruelty with my money. I will purchase and use only products that are cruelty-free and which do not cause animal suffering. I will avoid products that are known to have been tested on animals. 

8. I pledge not to give animals as gifts unless specifically requested and chosen by the recipient. If I do get an animal as a gift, I will ensure that it will be vaccinated, neutered and given proper care. I will adopt from shelters, pounds and animal rehomers rather than purchase from pet stores and breeders. 

9. I pledge to join or support wildlife protection programmes, animal welfare organisations and environmental organisations to educate myself on ways to reduce harm to animals and protect wildlife that are vulnerable to exploitation. Our collective voice and votes can help to change harmful governmental and corporate policies.  

10. I pledge to opt for vegetarian food whenever I can. I will go vegetarian at least once a week. I will also actively look for alternatives to leather, suede, fur, honey, silk and ivory.

 Happy World Animal Day, to all creatures great and small!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

On The Neil Dawson Trail

We had a long weekend on the occasion of Malaysia Day. As always, it was a time for reflection, for taking stock and for being in the company of family, friends and loved ones. The weekend was made all the better by the fact that I was invited to a splendiferous Malaysia Day dinner (covered in this blogpost by Ninot Aziz) thanks to the vision and generosity of a particular Monyet King and his lovely family. My better half, Aravind, and I were invited to partake in the festivities by virtue of my having been featured in His Simian Highness' "Cool and Committed Malaysians" series.

One dinner party, one wedding lunch, 6 hours of volunteering and several hours of housework and animal care work later, I decided to proceed with a project I have always wanted to carry out -- to photograph and create a Facebook album of the commissioned works of my favourite sculptor, Neil Dawson, in Kuala Lumpur. And so, accompanied by the ever-obliging Aravind, I traipsed all over KL on that quiet Monday afternoon with a camera in my hand and a song in my heart. To me, Neil Dawson's public artworks are not merely urban icons, but a celebration of beauty, strength, harmony, healing and magic.

Butterflies (1998) Megan Avenue II, Jalan Yap Kwan Seng, Kuala Lumpur:

These suspended metal butterflies bring with them a sense of freedom, movement and grace in an unlikely metropolitan setting.

A juxtaposition of the permanence and impenetrability of the office towers behind and flanking the butterflies, and the fragility of the butterflies.

My friend Dylan believes this butterfly to be an artistic representation of the wood nymph, which is said to carry unseen fairies through the jungle canopy. Butterflies are, to me, a symbol of rebirth and metamorphosis.

Vanishing Stairs (1997) Phileo Promenade, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur:

Transparent and unostentatious, Vanishing Stairs hovers above the ground, symbolising, perhaps, our growing ambitions and pursuit of urbanisation, but fading public spaces.

Vanishing Stairs, against the overcast city sky.

Leafsphere (1997) Wisma Rohas Perkasa, Jalan P Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur:

A magical and delightful fusion of the local (tropical rainforest leaves) and the global (Planet Earth).

Verdant, alive and floating in space with the elegance and weightlessness of a bubble.

Leafsphere could well be an allusion to our disappearing rainforests and indigenous flora.

Interested in finding out more about Neil Dawson and his sculptures? Step right this way: New Zealand Arts Foundation: Neil Dawson.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Viva La Weekend!

Weekly Roundup, In Pictures:

I saw this poster in the National Blood Bank when I went there to donate blood on Friday, Sept 7. I thought it was a really clever bit of design and copywriting.

Giving whole blood for the 42nd time on Friday. I know this much: that my regular donations of blood help to maintain a community supply, in case a patient need arises.

Another creative and engaging poster in the National Blood Bank waiting area. I think I look like the big muscly brute at the bottom. *Starts gun show*

This is Twix, one of a pair of my latest foster kittens. Twix and her sibling Twizzler were previously cared for by the wonderful children of Compassion Home. I have since gotten the mother cat spayed and am now in the process of rehoming the kittens. Two kittens have already found homes, and these are the remaining two.

This is Twizzler, Twix's sister. They have both been spayed and are awaiting suture removal. I will hand over Twizzler to her new adopter on Wednesday, while Twix will go to her new family on Saturday. I wish them both all the best, and want both kittens to know that I love them very much.

Drinkies at the pub on Friday night with my boyfriend Aravind and our friends Mark and Jo, as usual.

Little ball of cute, for adoption at the SPCA. I received a positive response from a potential adopter within minutes of posting this photograph on Facebook on Saturday. It was a very rainy weekend, so I didn't get to bathe the shelter dogs, although I did get to carry out other animal care, administrative and cleaning duties.

"Mixing my toasties"
Who else knows this silly rabbit-related joke? :)
Long-haired bunny for adoption.
Now awaiting a new home at the SPCA Selangor Cattery.

Seems like everyone's favourite time of day to surrender animals is after 5pm, just to make volunteers' lives difficult.
Precious is a 1-year-old Maltese terrier who was purchased by a college student who then decided to leave the country and leave her dog behind. Precious is very friendly and affectionate and would make a great companion. Please drop by the SPCA shelter anytime if you are interested in adopting her.

There was another Pet Charity Fair taking place this weekend, this time at Viva Home Mall. Since I have never been there before, I decided to check it out with Aravind on Saturday after completing my volunteer duties the SPCA.

With Dr. Chan Kah Yein of My Animal Care.Org at their outreach and education booth at the Pet Charity Fair. The "Animals Are Our Friends" t-shirt I am wearing in this picture is produced by her worthy organisation.

A chihuahua and her guardian perform tricks and demonstrate simple commands during an obedience demonstration at the Pet Charity Fair. The chihuahua was remarkably attentive and intelligent!

This Pomeranian displayed some signs of nervousness during the obedience demonstration, but performed sufficiently well to earn himself vouchers to a pet-friendly restaurant from the Master of Ceremonies!

Two Siberian huskies literally gave their young guardian the runaround during the impromptu dog obedience demonstration.

The evening has come to an end, and so our SPCA Intern (left) and SPCA Animal Inspector Kelvin (right) had to pack up and tidy the booth for the night. We had quite good sales of merchandise over the weekend, and more importantly, we managed to raise awareness about the importance of spaying and neutering, adopting from pounds and shelters, and reporting animal cruelty cases.

Making friends with a brown kitty outside the corner shop at Aravind's apartment.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Turtle Volunteer Programme: Sun, Sea and Heroes in a Half Shell!

Returning to active blogging:

I have been so busy with my various trips, activities and volunteer commitments for the past year that I ceased updating my blog, except for Letters to the Editor. I decided to return to active blogging because I missed blogging. I write for myself, and I had enjoyed recording things for posterity. I missed typing out my thoughts. opinions and feelings. I missed interacting with other bloggers. I am pleased that I have made the decision to return to active blogging.

Turtle Volunteer Programme, 1st - 2nd Sept 2012:

It has been a good year for volunteering and outdoor trips for me, and so I decided to organise a little volunteering trip of my own, which would be open to both Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and non-MNS members, to give everyone an opportunity to get acquainted with protected species and to give Mother Nature a hand.

After several months of writing official letters to the powers-that-be for permission and making arrangements for accommodation and our trip itinerary, we finally finalised the trip for the long Independence Weekend of 1st - 2nd September. We would be visiting and volunteering at the Turtle Information and Management Centre at Pantai Padang Kemunting, Pengkalan Balak, Masjid Tanah, Melaka. I had attended a volunteer programme there back in 2006 and found it to be a very enlightening, empowering and moving experience. The programme then was run by WWF Malaysia. They have since groomed the local youths to take over and run a grassroots organisation called Hawksbill EcoClub. Around 20 of my friends signed up (there were initially 30 registrants, but several pulled out due to family and other commitments) for the programme and so we met up at the Centre on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

A group photo for posterity outside the Centre.

The first activity on the itinerary is a compulsory briefing and video presentation on the threats faced by sea turtles and the work done by the Turtle Information and Management Centre. This is one of the slides on the conservation work done by the Dept of Fisheries and the Turtle Information and Management Centre. The turtle eggs are removed by licensed egg collectors within 2 hours of being laid and transferred to the hatchery and incubation rooms to prevent egg harvesting by profiteers. Turtles are part of our natural heritage and should be protected.

Hawksbill turtles feed on sea sponges (not the synthetic stuff you wash dishes with) and measure 70-90 cm on average. They can weigh between 35 and 75 kg.

Mohala, Mary and Keats viewing the exhibits and plaster models of turtles at the gallery within the Centre.

There were 5 turtles in a pond within the centre compound for rehabilitation and research purposes. They will be released into the sea once the biologists have determined that they are ready to go.

Rangamal and her nephews befriending a little hawksbill turtle. These turtles are used to the presence of humans and were not unduly stressed out.

Mohala, Sheela and Ilani are all smiles as they get ready to do the beach cleanup.

Ee Phin and Stefan hard at work collecting beach litter.

Starting them young: Rangamal teaches her nephews, Danush (5) and Karthik (11) about pollution and littering and gets them to assist in the beach cleanup.

Mary and Sheela sweep up the leaves while Nic (my best friend) pulls out a weed so that its roots will not end up depriving the turtle eggs of moisture.

The beach cleanup crew hard at work. Much of the litter consisted of pieces of polystyrene foam from the cooler boxes used by fishermen. I plan to write to the Dept of Fisheries to offer ideas on how to phase out the use of foam coolers due to the detrimental effect they have on wildlife. (Photo credits: Mary Chan)

I found a tube of toothpaste, while Aravind found a heart-shaped container! It's amazing what people leave on the beach! (Photo credits: Mary Chan)

We gathered at the hatchery after completing the beach cleanup to receive further instructions from Encik Mohammad.

We regrouped at the Centre after dinner for a briefing session before we started on our night walk and turtle observation activities.

Four hatchlings emerged from their shells around 10 p.m. They are always passive and disorientated right after hatching.

The four hatchlings were transported to a secluded area on the beach for release. This was the last photo I was able to take before we were instructed to switch all our flashlights, cameras and mobile phones off to avoid confusing the turtles as they make their way into the great big sea. I prayed hard for the little turtles' safety and well-being.

Another batch of turtle hatchlings emerge out of one of the nests. Stay strong and stay safe, baby turtles! See you in 15 - 20 years!

Pakcik Harun, one of the licensed egg collectors (seated) who we met during the night walk. He was so passionate and knowledgable! I hope he grooms others to follow in his footsteps. Props to Pakcik Harun!

Participants on the night walk to visit all the nesting sites. I was the sweeper as usual.

Party in our room after midnight. A bottle of gin, a bottle of wine and 3 bottles of vodka is a recipe for a MASSIVE HANGOVER and HEADACHE!

Time to give the turtles a bath to scrub all the algae and parasites off their carapace on Sunday morning. Stefan carries the turtle carefully while I receive it from inside the cleaning pool. (Photo credits: Mary Chan)

Gosh, I look so happy here. As Aravind said, I am always happy when I am giving something a bath.

Bathing turtles was more fun than we could have imagined!

Keats and Mohala's turtle is trying to run away to avoid being bathed!

Goodbye, Turtle Information and Management Centre, and see you again next year!

To find out more about the Turtle Information and Management Centre, contact them at the numbers and address provided below:

Pusat Penerangan dan Pengurusan Penyu
Turtle Information and Management Centre
Pantai Padang Kemunting,
Masjid Tanah,
Pengkalan Balak,
Phone/Fax: 06 384 6754
Facebook Profile:!/hawksbill.ecoclub.3