Daniella: Hi Zat! Thanks for speaking with us this evening. I hope you’re doing fine these days! Looking forward to when the ant exhibition can reopen again. Keeping ants as a pet is an interesting hobby. Can you share with us how you got interested in ants? How long have you liked them?
Zat: Actually, when I was younger, I was really curious about how ants communicate and what was happening in the chamber nests. Most people have a misconception that when you excavate a nest, the queen might accidentally get killed in the process. Therefore, they drop out of finding a queen ant. However one day, I decided to explore and thanks to the internet. I began to scout for information. I searched on Youtube and on other forums on how to obtain a queen ant and found out that it was actually relatively easy.
Daniella: What made you decide to open an ant exhibition? What were some initial difficulties? How did you overcome them?
Zat: I actually had a feeling that most people were like me —curious about the life cycle of ants because we see them almost every day. Most people don’t like them because they keep infiltrating our spaces, stealing our food, and sometimes even attack our pets. So I felt that the public would want to know more information about them so that they can understand them better and prevent them from infiltrating our space. I also thought that most people will be curious about why someone would want to invest so much time, effort, and expensive materials to decorate the ant nest. I knew that the ant exhibition would work as I had been planning it for years. However, I think the main difficulty was the timeline. I had to form the marketing team, the creative team, and the operation side. I didn’t have any prior experience in running an exhibition. As a matter of fact, most of the team members also did not have any prior experience in this so I think it’s quite amazing that we pulled it through. Every time we set a dateline, we would face setbacks such as the website not being up yet, or if we were ready to publish and broadcast it. We were going back and forth to see if we should host it in the far west, the east, or central. There were a lot of other setbacks but I think sometimes you just have to go for it.
Daniella: How long did it take you before you could finally open the exhibition? How have you established your name in Singapore?
Zat: After we assimilated the ideas and the team together, it only took us 3 months. Before we launched on 28 June, we did not have a website, any videos or even a venue. I actually had to persuade some of the partners in order to launch on time. A lot of people think that I’m doing quite well but to my expectations, it’s quite far away. There’s a lot of things that I want to achieve. I want to assemble a part of the community to fully focus on researching the behaviour of ants and using all these formulas and algorithms to better our society. To me, this is the most important part and I have yet to fulfil this. This is the only way that people will recognise that ant keepers actually benefit society and that it’s not just a hobby.
Daniella: What do you hope that people take away from this exhibition?
Zat: I think that the majority of people who came to our exhibition were curious for knowledge. Be it ants or other things, for instant, the next project I’ll be launching would be a brain exhibition. You might be wondering how a brain and ant exhibition is connected. However, if you look at an ant colony, it’s the same as how a brain works. I tried it myself with brain calculations, memory, creativity and more. I’ll pull together a team like what I did with the ant exhibition and we would assimilate all the factors that can benefit people for brain progression.
Daniella: The ant exhibition was first located at 143 Upper East Coast Road. You are now located at 359 Upper Paya Lebar road. How was the whole moving experience? Do you prefer the old or new location? Why?
Zat: It was actually part of a plan. Before this exhibition, I had planned to open a museum and more. But due to COVID-19, we have to work by plan now. However, this allows me to better fine-tune my plans and strategies. To be honest, it doesn’t matter to me. I already knew what was going to happen (not COVID-19 though, no one could predict that) business-wise. Before COVID-19, we would be doing much better at 359 Upper Paya Lebar Road. It’s a progression from 143 Upper East Coast Road.
Daniella: Liking ants, you must have a favourite species. Which one is your favourite? Why? Do you have any least favourites? Why or why not? How many ant species do you know? Can you name a few for us?
Zat: My favourite would be the Camponotus Auriventris as this species actually saved my life. I don’t have any least favourite species. I only dislike those colonies of ants that infiltrate my ant colonies. There’s a lot of ant species I can name. Weaver ants, Pheidole Parva, Camponotus Auriventris, Camponotus Albosparsus, Carebara Diversa, Odontoponera Denticulata and many more.
Daniella: Do you learn things from ants? Would you name a few things you learned from them?
Zat: Definitely. If you see my community, how I manage my business, how I manage people, almost everything I do, I take very deep consideration of how the ants might react. I would tell people that all my strategies are based on ants. One thing I learned from them is that ants also need space. I did a lot of experiments in the past. During COVID-19 now, there’s a lot of domestic violence going on because of space constrain. Like ants, I experimented and gave some ant species formicariums while others I gave them test tubes. Those in small test tubes, they actually dismembered the ant before it even died just to get more space. From this, you can actually see the similarities between humans and ants
Daniella: What are some things about ants that people don’t know?
Zat: There are actually a lot of things about ants that people don’t know about but I think the most important is that we can learn from ants. Most people will say that they learn unity from ants but there are many more things other than unity.
Daniella: Would you say that keeping ants is easy? Why or why not? What are some benefits that people gain from keeping ants? What are the downsides?
Zat: Keeping ants isn’t easy. It requires patience and a good formicarium. It can be easy if you just take a water bottle, fill with soil, and add the queen. The ants will thrive but you won’t be able to see them. I think the main benefit would definitely be attentiveness. How I tell the difference between real ant keepers and those who happen to have a passion for them in the spur of the moment is by how attentive they are. For example, you could throw the whole mealworm into the formicarium but the ants won’t eat it. You have to cut the mealworm into pieces and sometimes, the ants are picky eaters and won’t eat certain types of food. Some downsides would be if you have too many colonies. You can get rather jaded. The best advice I will give is to keep only 1 colony at a time. This way, you can give your full attention. You can cultivate more skills just by focusing on one colony.
Daniella: Ok to end off, should our readers keep ants as a pet?
Zat: To be honest, not everyone is suited for ant keeping. Some people don’t have the patience and some are too careless. Not everyone respects life. They treat ants as ants and don’t have any regard for their life. You should respect every living thing and so if you don’t have this type of heart or passion towards ants, it’s best not to have any ant colonies. Ants are living things that help our ecosystem and without them, our ecosystem might not be as good as it is today.
Daniella: Alright! Thank you so much for speaking with us today! I hope that our readers have learned something new about ants today. If you would like to know more information about the ant exhibition, head over to https://www.thesingaporeantsexhibition.com/.