16 January 2010

Happy Crabby Birthday at the Leafmonkey Workshop!

It's been a year since the Leafmonkey Workshops started in earnest, and we celebrate with a very special session on our crabs!

November first begins with a quick recap.
Amazing! 17 workshops so far already! Covering an array of topics from mangroves to pioneer plants, spiders to slugs.
With the support of many speakers who shared with passion and insight.
How nice to also have at the celebration, Ivan of Divebooks who has supported the Workshops by providing discounts and special delivery of amazing books to participants. Such as this gigantic compedium of marine life which he brought to the session last night.
The workshop runs on peanuts! Which are generously provided by participants and supporters.
Unfortunately, at the end of a year's run, the Workshop is in the hole for 387.7 peanuts.
Please feed the pig with peanuts! The original Golden pig has been retired and is now replaced by the Flat pig.
We have a quick group shot with the birthday cake. Which now looks ominously tiny compared to the huge and heartening turn out for the event. My little sneaky cam cannot get everyone in the photo.
Fortunately, Marcus leaps into action with his Real Camera. Here's everyone making crab claws!
How appropriate for the main event, a great introduction to our crabs by Tan Swee Hee of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. While there was no chili involved, the talk was certainly spicy and saucy!
I learnt a lot about taxonomy and how scientific names were much much more complicated before Linnaeus came around to fix things up. Swee Hee also shared some salacious personal details about Linnaeus. You had to be there to hear it. November is scarred for life.
Scientific names in Latin are important so that everyone around the world can communicate effectively about our crabs and other plants and animals. Regardless of the language used, everyone uses the same Latin scientific name. Swee Hee also shared some scientific names of crabs that sound shocking through a Hokkien filter. My ears are still ringing.
We learn that crabs are more than just two large pincers and a bunch of legs to be gnawed upon. Wow. Even hairs under the armpits are important in distinguishing some species. Cool!
The life cycle of crabs is fascinating and important to understand so that we can better protect our favourite seafood.
'Baby' crabs look nothing like the adults and are tiny. They might spend their 'childhood' in a habitat different from their parents. Sheltered habitats like mangroves and seagrass meadows are important in the lifecycle of crabs so that they can grow up to produce MORE crabs.
Then there are the fascinating details of crab sex! I've always known that the female crab needs to have just moulted for the male crab to be able to mate with her. But last night I found out that terrestrial crabs 'do it hard' as Swee Hee so gently puts it. Ouch.
Not all crab-like animals are true crabs. The humungous Alaskan king crab, it turns out, is NOT a true crab. It's more of a monster porcelain crab. Eew.
Swee Hee also introduces some common crabs seen in the various habitats that we might come across as guides. And answers that all too common question "Can Eat or Not?". Well of course some crabs will kill you outright if you eat them. Even cooking doesn't destroy their toxins.
But there are worse ways to die from eating crabs! Swee Hee introduces us to the truly morbid and gross details of parasites we can get from eating freshwater crabs uncooked. Truly stomach turning. Tigers and cats can also be involved in the parasite life cycle. Ack!
Throughout the talk, Swee Hee's lovely wife, Sok Koon, is taking lots of photos.
And everyone is enthralled. Even the little crab models that Chay Hoon brought along for the session.
After an all-too-short FAQ session, it's time to do the workshop part of the session. Yes, it's everyone's favourite animal charades!
The teams launch enthusiastically into the activity with lots of vigorous action.
Somewhat bewildering, but immediately obvious after Swee Hee's introduction.
After the quick warm up, we launch into a more indepth discussion and presentation of ways to share our common crabs with some 'difficult' types of visitors.
We find new ways to engage such visitors through hilarious jokes, analogies and even manage to slot in a message or two.
One of the messages being not to handle the animals. Even Chay Hoon's models can fall apart when handled, what more the nervous crabs who can drop off their parts when they are frightened.
We also had a discussion about the sad consequences of guides using chopsticks. This gives the impression to visitors that it is alright to handle all marine life. When our message should be to leave marine life alone and observe them quietly. Hard sticks can hurt the crabs. Just moulted crabs can be pierced. Crabs picked up may shed limbs which unnecessarily handicaps them. Chopsticks can hurt people. The short sticks bring our hands within close range to pinching claws. Worse, visitors will think it is alright to use chopsticks and will do the same when they visit the shores on their own.

It was another great session at the Leafmonkey Workshop!

With lots of other exciting topics coming up in the year ahead. Visit the Leafmonkey Workshop blog or the facebook page for more details and to sign up for these events.

Here's to another successful year of Leafmonkey Workshops!

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