Friday, 22 February 2013

Turn On Your Love Light

 Considering the fact that I celebrate every observance day in the calendar, including things that make no sense in Malaysia such as St. Patrick's Day, Bon Odori, Gokulashtami and Oktoberfest, it isn't very surprising that I am one of those who choose to celebrate Valentine's Day despite its crass commercialism and creation of unrealistic expectations.

Valentine's Day is to me a day to express love and appreciation to all who enrich my life. It helped that I was still on my Lunar New Year staycation, so I was able to spend time with loved ones and do all the things I love best.

An origami Valentine for my parents held a Starbucks gift card so CovertDad could take CovertMum out for coffee and sandwiches. Although I do not patronise designer coffee outlets, I think Starbucks has made good progress in its effort to be more ethical and responsible in sourcing fair trade coffee and supporting forest conservation programmes. 

I made Aravind a badass Valentine ransom note to keep him on his toes. We can't have him growing complacent now, can we? 

~ A jar of hearts for my King of Hearts. ~ 
This coffee jar holds more than a hundred paper hearts telling him all the things I love most about him. 
My other gift to Aravind was the adoption/sponsorship of two terrapins under the Turtle Conservation Society's Terrapin and Turtle Adoption Programme. Aravind's terrapin's name is Ketupat, while my terrapin's name is Arjuna. I hope they both grow up big and strong and return to our beaches to nest when they are grown up. 

Aravind got me chocolates, and just in case I haven't completely destroyed my diet plans, he threw in a bag of cookies as well. 

I made the Rowdies a nice Meowlentine dinner to let them know how much I love them, and how much I want to make them happy even if I am not the purrfect cat mum. They loved it. They all had seconds. Pixie even had thirds. 

Aravind giving my little Daisy some TLC. And they call it Papa Love... 

~ Feel The Love! ~ 
Aravind and I got chocolates and made a Braille card for the staff of PB Blind Massage Centre, a socially responsible business that we regularly patronise. Our visually-impaired friends loved their Valentine.

 ... And this is what qualifies as a scrumptious Valentine's Day dinner, in my book. We had dinner at Gopala's, one of my favourite vegetarian restaurants. 

My best friends and I decided to take advantage of a good online deal and went on a short jaunt to the backwaters of Morib, Banting, for a little post-Valentine getaway on the 18th - 19th of February.

Our decidedly nice suite at the Morib Gold Coast Resort

A jacuzzi in the bathroom! As good a reason as any to shower with a friend! 

The Resort calls this a "Water Theme Park", but really it's just a wading pool with a few fancy slides and playground equipment. Can't complain, though, it really was quite nice and cheap as heck. 

We love the beach! Aravind says it has something to do with the salt content of seawater being the same proportion as the salt and mineral content in human blood. Further proof that our lives are intertwined with that of our seas and oceans. 

Kites, mangrove beaches, mud, and funny bamboo thingamabobs on stilts in the sea. Could we ask for more? 

Kite-flying. One of the vocationally useless things I am good at. I have had this kite, my Rainbow Stealth Fighter, since 2010. 

Aravind flying the Rainbow Stealth Fighter. 

We are not in swimming gear because there is not much swimming to be done in 5 inches of heavily chlorinated water. 

Nicole doesn't want to go down the slide. So I sent Aravind up there to give her a push. Because that's what friends are for. 

Going down the curly-twirly tube slide. 

 I can't get enough of water slides. 

Go, Speed Racer, Go! 

"You're facing the wrong way, mate." 

On our way home, we found a kitten that had been hit by a car outside a mushroom farm & shop in Tanjung Sepat and decided to bring him home to our vet. The kitten, who we have since named Moglet, is doing fine (thanks to Nic's mad driving skills and Aravind's contributions) and recovering in my home. He was immensely fortunate to have escaped with just a dislocated hip and no internal organ damage. 

Nicole's car, Old Girl, had a radiator gasket problem and we had to stop at a mechanic's workshop along the way. Here I am, keeping Moglet as comfortable as possible while we wait for Old Girl to be repaired.

I hope your Valentine's Day was as full of excitement as mine.

For further information, please visit: 

Turtle Conservation Society
Become a member here.
Mailing address:
Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia
56-2/1, Pangsapuri Cerong Lanjut,
Jalan Cerong Lanjut,
20300 Kuala Terengganu,

Massage by the Blind 
Pusat Urut Tradisional PB
Jalan Thambipillay
50490 Kuala Lumpur
Call 03 2274 5372 for an appointment.

MAB ( Malaysian Association for the Blind)
Kompleks MAB,
Jalan Tebing,
Off Jalan Sambanthan 4,
50470 Kuala Lumpur
Learn more about Braille here.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Helping Hands at the National Zoo

As an animal welfare volunteer and activist, I have been following the progress of Zoo Negara for several years, especially since the Malaysian Zoo Animal Welfare Forum in Sept 2010.

I was advised by friends in conservation circles that Zoo Negara now complies with the latest guidelines set by the World Association of Zoos and Aquarium (Waza) and South-East Asian Zoo Association (Seaza) and has increased its conservation awareness efforts. It no longer does elephant shows and there is a lot more emphasis on enrichment programmes for the animals. All the recently acquired animals are legally sourced and there is a great deal more transparency in the way the Zoo operates. I was heartened by this and decided that I too, would like to make a difference in the lives of the Zoo animals. And that is how I began volunteering with Zoo Negara last year.

The Zoo Volunteer Programme is not only a good opportunity for volunteers to get hands-on about helping wildlife, it is also an exercise in transparency. Volunteers can see for themselves that animals are not being denied the food and medical care they need, and volunteers can act as the Zoo management’s eyes and ears in pointing out things that are less than satisfactory.

I decided to volunteer because I felt the need to walk the talk on the welfare of wildlife in captivity. Being part of the solution often entails getting down and dirty and doing hands-on work. To have a World Class Zoo, we need to be a World Class Society -- and it begins with you and me.

It has been a few months since my last volunteer session at the Zoo due to work and other volunteer commitments. I decided to spend Thursday, Feb 14, at the Zoo after spending Tuesday, Feb 12, at the SPCA shelter bathing all the mummy dogs and cleaning the kennels and cattery.


Regular volunteer Hon See and I help to muck out the Seladang enclosure and remove the leftover food from the day before.

Washing the Seladang enclosure concrete substrate, while being observed by the incredibly tame and friendly Seladang.

Time to clean out the Capybara enclosure and give them their breakfast. The Capybara came running out to us like dogs. 
"Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy! What's for breakfast?" they seemed to ask Omar the zookeeper.

The capybaras were stunningly beautiful, friendly and not timid at all. We raked their enclosure clean and then put down trays of food for them.

 I got to explore the Zoo during my lunch break. Free-range flamingos foraged for food in their pond.

A giraffe enjoying his meal at the Savannah Walk, where upgrading work is being carried out to expand, enrich and improve the animals' living conditions.

Butterflies enjoying their lunch break as well in the Insect House. The pretty pink inflorescence of this creeper, known as Coral Vine or Chain of Love, seems to attract a lot of butterflies.

Tapirs chilling out in the shade. I was supposed to clean out their enclosure after the lunch break but it started raining like the clappers and turning everything into mud.

Asian elephants, my favourite beings. A life in captivity is never ideal and never a good substitute for living in their natural habitat, but at least these elephants did not have their ankles chained and were free to move around and play with their enrichment activities and devices. Their enclosure seems comfortable and roomy enough, and the elephants did not display as many stereotypies (such as begging or swaying) as I used to observe in captive elephants. 

Free-range painted storks roaming the Zoo compound and socialising with the visitors. These are the same birds that fly out to the Ampang Elevated Highway daily to sit on the lampposts and return to the Zoo at night.

The tiger enclosure is now bigger and offers the tigers more hiding spaces and enrichment activities.

 Flying foxes resting during the day.

The noisy diesel trams have been replaced with silent electric eco-trams.

What a difference a year makes! 
When I first wrote to the Zoo Director requesting them to consider eliminating styrofoam products from the Zoo concession stands, I faced so much criticism and so many objections that I felt no longer welcome at the Zoo. 
But the styrofoam ban was finally implemented during World Earth Day last year and is still being enforced. Educational posters such as this one are placed on notice boards and around eateries within the Zoo to educate the public. 
Many thanks to the Education team who made this campaign a success! 

The Zoo Volunteer Programme is not for those who want to come and have fun for several hours and see animals up close without doing any real work.

As with a normal workday, you have to be there for a stipulated time, i.e. 8.30 a.m. – 4.30 p.m., and be prepared to work continuously for much of the 8 hours. You should come in comfortable old clothes that cover the knees, chest and shoulders, and wear covered shoes, e.g. trainers. Bring your own drinking water, sun block and food to reduce packaging waste.

To register, you need to contact the Education Department at at least a day in advance. The registration form is available at, or you can register when you arrive.

You must arrive at the Zoo on the designated day before 8.15 a.m. If you are driving, do try to park at the staff parking area or neighbouring residential area to avoid having to pay a hefty parking fee to the car park concessionaire. Enter the Zoo from Gate 3 and ask the Security personnel to direct you to the Education Office / Library. Inform the Education officer on duty that you are here to volunteer and submit your registration form together with the RM10 administrative fee.

Being a zoo volunteer is rewarding in so many aspects. Not only is it educational both from an animal care and natural history perspective, you also get to appreciate the challenges of operating and managing a wildlife facility. It is also empowering because you know you are able to make a difference in the lives of animals.