Less than $2m of immediate $8m needed raised as new deadline looms
The deadline set by its sellers has come and gone, but the money to buy three dinosaurs for Singapore’s upcoming natural history museum is still not in the bag.
Since it embarked on an intense race to raise $12 million for the fossils from Wyoming in the United States a month ago, the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research has managed to collect only $1.89 million through several donors and public donations through its online portal.
It has since negotiated an extension of the deadline – originally July 31 – with its American sellers and now has one to two months to raise the rest of the money.
The immediate task is to collect $8 million first to secure the three dinosaurs. The remaining $4 million, to be used for transport and to mount the exhibits, can be raised later.
Last month, the museum, which is part of the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Department of Biological Sciences, announced that it was in a bid to buy a family of three dinosaurs.
The two adults and one baby were found together between 2007 and last year in Ten Sleep, a small town in Wyoming, and are more than 80 per cent complete, which is rare for dinosaur discoveries.
The trio are diplodocid sauropod dinosaurs, among the biggest animals to have walked the earth. Two of them measure 24m in length each while the baby dinosaur is 12m.
The first large donor to come on board was Siloso Beach Resort in Sentosa, which approached the museum after reading a report of the planned acquisition in The Sunday Times a month ago.
It has pledged $500,000. The eco-hotel’s executive director, Mr Kelvin Ng, said the hotel’s staff all support the effort.
‘We need to learn about the history of the earth. If we don’t learn from the past, what are we going to do with our future?’ he said, adding that the exhibits will bring in researchers and visitors.
‘If a small company like us can do it, why not others?’
Three other private donors have also put money on the table. One of them is an unnamed donor who first gave $10 million to the museum when it was raising its building fund last year. This donor has pledged $1 million.
Another two – a private trust fund and a company – have pledged $250,000 and $100,000 respectively.
Dr Lee Seng Gee, the eldest son of the late Singapore philanthropist Lee Kong Chian, and his wife Della have also pledged to donate a yet-to-be determined sum, as has their DSLee Foundation. The foundation’s director, Mrs Mary Hoe-Tan, said: ‘We are confident that our contribution will put Singapore on the world map and be a lasting educational legacy for generations to come.’
Since news of the fund-raising broke, more than 70 individuals have also donated through the museum’s online portal, amounting to $40,000.
Professor Peter Ng, director of the Raffles Museum, concedes that raising funds to buy the dinosaur bones has been a bigger challenge than when it raised $46 million to build a dedicated new museum last year.
‘Public sentiment over building the museum was almost unanimous because that is seen as our natural heritage,’ he said.
‘But dinosaurs are a bit different. People will say: Our history has nothing to do with dinosaurs.’
He argued that for Singaporeans to learn about how evolution works and to get young people excited about science, nothing beats having dinosaurs in its exhibitions.
If successful, they will be the star attraction at the new 7,500 sq m Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum which will open at NUS in 2014.
The museum will also showcase the current Raffles Museum’s collection of 500,000 specimens of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, crustaceans, insects, molluscs and other invertebrates.
The fund-raising team is still reaching out to potential donors. Some have asked about the possibility of naming rights. Prof Ng said the museum will explore the option with them if the donation is substantial.
What happens if it fails to raise the money needed?
‘If we fail, the country would have lost a great opportunity to bring in something of great educational value,’ said Prof Ng.