By Cheng Chee Hoew
On the morning of 20 February 2016, Humanist Society (Singapore) celebrated the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth with a trip to the Singapore Zoological Gardens.
In line with the Chinese Year of the Monkey, one of the highlights of the tour would be the primates. HSS was also joined by a similarly initialed group: the Herpetological Society of Singapore, whose representative would guide us through the snake, reptile and turtle exhibits.
Led by a two exco members who are a science educator and a former zookeeper respectively, the group of about 20 adults and children set off on a journey of fun and knowledge. As the group strolled from one exhibit to another, we learned about the behaviour of each animal and the science behind it.
These included how sexual selection as the driving force for giraffes’ long necks, the biological make-up of rhino horns, the difference between tortoises and turtles, and how genetics play a part in the colouration of white tigers.
Over in the great rift valley, we saw how baboon societal structures mirror our own, and how the discovery of the Lucy fossil led to a greater understanding of our ancestral history.
Not content to remain passive listeners, the participants asked many questions of our guides. Apart from scientific queries, there was much curiosity about ethics, myths and the human side of the zoo industry. At the end of the trip, we had gained many new insights into the life of animals and our relationship to them.