Monday, August 12, 2013

Wild Encounters at the MNS Eco Kids Zoo Enrichment Workshop


By Wong Ee Lynn


Though many of us do not enjoy seeing animals in captivity, 41 MNS members were keen to learn how to improve the quality of life of animals at Zoo Negara.  Zoo Education Officer Edwina and team were there to greet us when we arrived on the morning of 28th July 2013 and we were taken to the Enrichment Centre where we were to prepare food puzzles and treats for the lions, tigers, tapirs and elephants to keep them mentally and physically stimulated.


It was also a good exercise in repurposing, as the workshop participants had spent time collecting cardboard boxes, coconut shells and toilet roll tubes for the Enrichment Centre to be converted into toys and puzzles for the animals.


Due to the large size of our group, some of the participants chose to go on a Science Walk with Dr. Ille Gebeshuber, who is not only a Professor in Physics but also a dedicated MNS member and volunteer.


With the help of their parents, the children who stayed behind at the Enrichment Centre carved and hollowed out pumpkins to be stuffed with meat for the lions and tigers. The pumpkins would then be concealed in boxes to stimulate the big cats’ natural hunting and seeking instincts. 

The other participants cut up fruits and vegetables for the tapirs and elephants.


A group of participants wrapped a mixture of rice, palm sugar and bananas in banana leaves to be presented to the elephants.


The children put fruits and vegetable pieces on skewers and poked the sharp ends into a banana trunk to create a whimsical fruit cocktail bar for the tapirs.

The Science Walk group joined us at 10 a.m. for the Animal Enrichment Observation. It was not merely a session during which we observed “cute animals doing cute things”, but an important and educational lesson on animals’ natural behaviours and social needs. Education Officer Edwina must be commended on her short interactive lessons on snare traps and the wildlife trade, habitat loss, why some animals could not be reintroduced into the wild, the need for zoos and animal sanctuaries, the reason for the Zoo’s ban on Styrofoam, and the conservation status of many animals (i.e. least concern, endangered and extinct).

Well, there goes the cow! One of the tigers has found the pumpkin concealed in a box decorated to resemble a cartoon cow, but he wasn’t hungry enough to have his breakfast immediately.


The lions found their pumpkins within minutes, but seemed more interested in guarding the meat and casting jealous glares at their neighbours, the tigers.



Here comes the MNS mascots,  the tapirs! Their proboscis wagged merrily when they smelled the fruits. And no, they didn’t hurt themselves on the satay skewers. Aren’t they clever?


Siti the Asian Elephant says: “Reach out and touch somebody today!”


In an ideal world, animals would be able to live peacefully in the wild without human interference.  However, with the number of threats to wildlife such as deforestation, poaching and hunting, zoos and sanctuaries have to be set up to provide safe living spaces for animals, in particular, captive-bred or confiscated wildlife who can no longer survive in the wild. It must be remembered that zoos and sanctuaries can never be a good substitute for life in the wild. Animals in captivity can and do get restless, bored, depressed and frustrated, and start displaying behaviour such as swaying, rocking, biting, begging and overgrooming their fur or feathers to the point that bald patches appear. It is hoped that our little contributions helped to make the animals’ lives a little more fun and interesting.


We take this opportunity to thank Edwina and her hardworking team as well as our ever-obliging Dr. Ille for their time, effort and assistance. May we all continue to do what we can to help and protect wildlife and the natural world.



Saturday, August 3, 2013

Managing Electromagnetic Field Pollution




(Image credits:


By Wong Ee Lynn


Electromagnetic fields (EMF) and electromagnetic waves (EMW) are present everywhere in the environment and natural sources include the Earth, Sun, ionosphere, lightning and visible light. EMWs in their natural frequency are not harmful to humans. Our Earth’s frequency is 7.83 Hz, which is identical to human (alpha) brain waves.


However, there are also manmade EMFs and EMWs, which have increased in the past century with the development of technology and radio communications. Devices such as cellular and cordless phones, electronic gadgets, satellite systems and microwave ovens come in a frequency range of between 900 MHz to 2.4 GHz.


These frequencies are hazardous because they overload and overstimulate our bodies, and overwhelm our immune systems. Computers, for instance, generate enough radiation to cause concern even at distances up to about 60cm (about 2 feet). Some of the health effects associated with EMFs and EMWs include depression, chronic fatigue, memory loss, irritability, inability to concentrate, insomnia, headaches, weakened immune system, anxiety and stress-related ailments.


EMFs are created whenever an electrical appliance is connected to the mains supply, including appliances we use in our daily lives such as computers, mobile devices and refrigerators. Many appliances do not merely create EMFs but rely on EMFs in order to function.  Local EMF hotspots include areas close to electricity metres, main distribution panels, fuse boxes, battery-based back-up power supplies and major wiring ducts.


It is very difficult for most of us to eliminate the use of electronic and telecommunications devices entirely just to avoid exposure to EMFs and EMWs. As such, here are some strategies that could help reduce exposure to EMWs and promote energy efficiency in our daily lives:



Increasing your distance from an EMW-emitting device will reduce your exposure to EMWs.

Do not stand or sit in front of a microwave oven to watch food cook.


Sit at least 6 feet (1.9 metres) away from a TV set. Do not sit close to the sides and back of a TV set if you are not watching TV, as radiation is just as high from these angles as if you are facing the TV directly. LCD / flat screen TVs produce much less radiation than cathode ray types (CRT), so do choose a LCD / flat screen unit if you are buying or replacing a TV set.


Computer power supply or UPS systems which provide backup power supply for computers emit powerful radiation, so do position it as far away from yourself and others as the cables would allow, at least 1.5 metres.


Position your computer central processing unit (CPU) tower as far away from you as the cables would allow (at least 60 cm). If possible, keep it on the floor. It is best to minimise computer radiation exposure to your head.


LCD monitors emit minimal EMW radiation, so do consider making a change to an LCD monitor unit, laptop or netbook if you are still using an older CRT type of computer. In addition, LCD monitors and laptops require less electricity to run. However, lower radiation does not mean zero health risk, so please try to minimise exposure to radiation from LCD monitors, mobile phones, tablet devices, smartphones, laptops and netbooks. Place them on a surface other than your lap or other part of your body during use.


WiFi information networks, wireless routers, modems and similar devices also emit high levels of EMWs. This type of radiation (radio frequency or microwave) is different from computer radiation and these wireless devices have not yet been proven by experts to be safe. To be on the safe side and to save electricity, switch off mobile devices and WiFi routers after use and when you go to bed.




Minimise the duration of time spent on your EMW-emitting devices. Do not leave devices and appliances on when not in use. Do not bring your mobile phone, netbook, laptop, tablet, e-reader or similar devices to bed with you. Limit computer and mobile phone use to a certain number of hours each day.




Switch all devices off after use, and switch off chargers once they are fully charged. Try not to have your computer, smartphone or other electronic devices in the bedroom. Try not to fall asleep in front of the computer or TV set. If you find yourself dozing off, switch off your computer/TV (switch off completely at the source, not just put it in sleep mode) and go to bed.




Many appliances and devices we use at home do not need to be electronic or battery-operated. Non-electronic kitchen scales, bathroom scales, hand-powered blenders/food processors and non-battery operated children’s toys and musical instruments will help you save money on electricity and battery costs, as well as reduce exposure to EMWs. Washing and drying dishes by hand, and using conventional non-electric toothbrushes and shavers can reduce EMW exposure. Use a swiffer pad or broom instead of a vacuum cleaner if possible. Hang clothes out to dry instead of using a dryer. Preparing salads and cooking dishes using a steamer over a rice cooker while the rice is cooking will reduce cooking time and eliminate the need to use extra electronic appliances, and ultimately, reduce your exposure to EMWs in the kitchen.




Your body and health are your best safety devices. To strengthen your immune system and reduce the health risks associated with exposure to electromagnetic radiation, take care of your diet, exercise regularly, go outdoors frequently, spend at least several hours a day away from electronic devices and cultivate a positive attitude to make you more resilient against stress, anxiety and fatigue.



(Sources: and The Canadian Initiative to Stop Wireless, Electric and Electromagnetic Pollution [WEEP])