Docent Informations
What does "docent" mean?
We are a young group. The pioneers started the group in April 1997. Since then, we have grown modestly to 93 docents. The Night Safari Volunteer Rangers were brought under the Docent Programme in March 1999.
The docents are self-run by a committee of docents which co-ordinates inputs from all docents and liaises with the zoo management to put into motion the group's activities.
A docent newsletter is issued every two months so docents can keep up with the latest in zoo happenings and docent activities. Sprinkled with inspiring stories and amusing anecdotes, the Docent Deliberations is always a great read! We also constantly undertake research projects to expand and update our knowledge as well as explore new areas of interest.
Singapore Zoological Gardens Docents
ARTHROPODS

Eating hearty on arthropods? All humans relish arthropods. Yes, even YOU! Don't you like seafood?! Insects, of course, are a different kettle of bugs.

 

Bug Mac: many people all over the world eat insects and other arthropods on purpose (as opposed to accidentally!) both as a delicacy and staple. This makes sense because insects are nutritious. Insects provide as much protein as an equal amount of lean beef. Although their amino acid content is not as well-balanced for human nutrition, this is easily corrected by plant proteins. Insects are also a good source of minerals and some vitamins, especially for people who have limited access to other animal proteins. You probably regularly eat bugs, without even knowing it! Insects are a part of all processed food from wheat meal for bread to tomato ketchup. It's impossible to keep mass-produced food 100% insect-free. There are regulations stating the maximum amount of bug bits that food can contain and still be fit for human consumption.

 

Red about it: the food colouring cochineal is extracted from the crushed bodies of scale insects that feed on the prickly pear. Cochineal is widely used in many popular food items--read the labels!


Arthropods are an ecologically better option for commercial protein production. One hectare of US ranch land supports 100kg of beef, but can support 1 ton of insects. As most humans are still squeamish about bugs as the main course, another way would be use insects as animal feed. In India, the by-products of silk production, the silk moth pupae, are fed to chickens. Currently there are some groups trying to promote insect eating (called Entomophagy in polite company), see the links listed below.

 

Here are some famous bugs enjoyed by people all over the world listed by their insect family groups

Butterflies and moths, and their caterpillars: Witchetty Grub is the caterpillar of the large Cossid Moth (Xyleutes leucomochla Turn) which lives inside and feeds on acacia stems and roots. They are harvested by digging and chopping up the roots. Eaten raw by Australian aborigines, they are said to taste of almonds. Ten large grubs provide all the calories, protein and fat that an adult human needs in a day. Wounds and burns were also treated with a layer of crushed Witchetty Grub, whose oils probably function like soothing petroleum jelly! Mopani worm: the caterpillar of a saturniid moth (Gonimbrasia belina). It is gutted then baked and relished by Africans. Silkworm moth pupae are eaten in Korea and Japan. They are fried. The people of Zaire eat more than 35 different types of caterpillars, usually toasted or sautéed in butter.


The Australian Aborigines harvest Bogong Moths (Agrotis infusa) when the moths gather to hibernate. The moths are cooked in hot ashes to burn off their wings and legs. Their heads are removed and the remaining bodies can be eaten as is, or ground into a paste and kneaded into cakes then roasted.

 

Great communal feasts were held around this harvest and the moths are an important source of nutrients during the hot season when there is little to eat. Those who eat bogong moths for the first time usually have bad stomach cramps and vomiting.


Bogong Moths "hibernate" (aestivate is the correct term) in huge groups during the dry hot season in cool caves of Australian highlands, covering the walls like roof tiles.

 

There they remain in suspended animation, living off the reserves of fat built up as caterpillars. The moths are more than 50% fat. Although the bodies contain little protein, the eggs in egg-laden females are rich in protein.

For more details on how they are prepared and eaten, see Lynn Garry Salmon's page on Of Moths and Men

Termites: In Africa, when winged termites emerge in dense numbers, they are eagerly collected. They emerge with the first rains at the end of the dry season when the people are weak from malnutrition. The termites are harvested by placing a bowl of water under a light source. Attracted to the light, they get trapped when they fall into the water. They are either fried, roasted and eaten salted, or ground into flour. They provide important protein, fat and vitamins. The queen termites are a relished delicacy. In East Africa, termite mounds are considered so important that they are owned by individuals and form part of his inheritance when he dies. In Nigeria, stock cubes based on termites are easily available.

 

Grasshoppers are the most widely eaten insect, from American Indians to people in Korea and Japan, and Southeast Asia. They are considered famine food, but provide as much protein as regular animal meat. The grasshoppers are roasted and ground into a meal then backed into cakes; or dried and salted whole. Locusts are widely eaten in the Middle East and Africa: they are gutted (the guts can carry parasites) then roasted and eaten whole, ground into flour, or cooked in saltwater then dried in the sun. Some even eat them raw. Their eggs are mixed with flour to make bread. Crickets are also toasted and eaten in Africa. Cicadas were an important protein staple for tribes in New Guinea, Australia, Indochina and American Indians. They were considered a delicacy in ancient Greece and Rome, and modern-day Japan. They are eaten just after they emerge from their last larval skin.

 

Beetle larvae: Palm Weevil larvae (Rhynchophorus phoenicus) is an important source of fat and protein in Angola and other parts of Africa. They are usually eaten fried. The Sago Grub is an important delicacy that plays a key role in the social life of South Pacific islanders and tribes in New Guinea.

The Mexicans are reputed to eat the most insects, 40% of all insects eaten by humans. This includes Hemiptera, Hymenoptera, Orthoptera, Coleoptera, Lepidoptera.

 

True Bugs: You can buy deep fried Giant Water Bugs at streetside stalls in Thailand. It is also enjoyed in other parts of Southeast Asia. An extraction of its abdominal glands are used to flavour many dishes in Thailand.

Ants in all stages (egg, larvae, pupae and adults) are relished. In South America they are eaten live, canned or toasted like peanuts (tastes like bacon). In India and Indochina, a paste of green weaver ants is a spicy condiment. These ants also spice up rice in Borneo and is made into a drink in Australia. The Australian Aborigines and Mexican Indians eat honey-pot ants which store their honey in the abdomens of living ants. These ants, called repletes, hang down from the roof of their nest, and are a source of sugar and water in the dry desert.

 

Bees: Besides eating their honey and royal jelly, and using their wax, bees are also eaten in Africa, Indochina and South America. Bee larvae and pupae, when baked or fried resemble breakfast cereal and apparently taste nutty and sweet, similar to sunflower seeds, shrimps, walnuts, pork crackling. In Mexico, chocolate covered bees and bees in syrup are canned and sold and exported as a gourmet item. Wasps have the highest protein content of all edible insects (80%). They are eaten in Mexico, and the insect larva is food in rural parts of Thailand and Laos. Fried wasps, mixed with boiled rice, sugar, and soy sauce was a favourite dish of Emperor Hirohito of Japan.

 

Dragonflies and damselflies are hunted and eaten in Bali. They are caught with a sticky stick. They are eaten grilled, boiled with spices or roasted.


Further informations in german can be found here!

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