Scientific Work in the Straits Settlements and Ceylon

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    Abstract

    THE last number of the Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society is full of matter interesting to various classes of readers: “for botanists, Mr. H. N. Ridley's studies on the grasses, sedges, Scitaminele, and Begonias of Borneo; for zoologists, Mr. P Cameron's account of the Hymenoptera of Sarawak; for anthropologists, Mrs. Bland's description of the curious Anyam Gila basketry of Malacca, and Mr. Howell's Dyak ceremonies in pregnancy and childbirth, with a list of remarkable taboos imposed upon the woman before and after delivery; and, lastly, for folklorists, several tales collected by Messrs. Maxwell and Laidlaw. The most important contribution to the number is Mr. Ridley's article on the menagerie at the Botanic Gardens, Singapore. This was started by a local society in 2859, taken over by the Government in 1874, and, finally, the valuable collection was dispersed in 2903 on the ground that the authorities could not afford funds for buildings and a modest annual grant for maintenance. It is certainly a misfortune that this institution should have met such a fate. As Mr. Ridley points out, there are few places in the world better suited for a zoological garden than Singapore. Maintenance charges are low, and the vicinity of the source of supply renders it possible to procure specimens at a small cost. Mr. Ridley gives valuable notes on the various genera, and supplies useful hints on the methods of keeping animals in captivity. He lays down as a maxim that the only way of knowing what an animal thinks is comfortable and snug is to keep it and observe its ways. It will soon let you know what it likes, which probably does not at all fall in with your ideas of what it ought to like. His notes on the habits of the larger Quadrumana are based on first-hand knowledge. A pair of Indian jackals, he tells us, bred in the gardens, which is, to say the least, unusual. The Malay tapir (Tapirus incficus) displayed remarkable cryptic characters. When in its young pelage it hid in a palm bush, and when I vent to fetch it, on opening the bush and looking down, I could not see it. I seemed to be looking on the dark brown ground with spots of sunlight through the leaves. The little animal lay in such a position that the yellow spots were exactly where the vertical sun rays would fall, the yellow streaks resembling the slanting streaks of light from the side. It was for a few minutes quite invisible, though I was looking down on it. No. 47 of the journal of the same branch of the society is devoted completely to a Malay manuscript entitled Hikaiat Shamsu “1 Bahrain,” which, however, has no claims to special interest, being of a common type.

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