For a whole month, 24-year-old student Andie Ang Hui Fang, trudged through Singapore’s forests four days a week. She was looking for glimpses of a rare species of primates, the Banded Leaf Monkey, as part of her Master of Science programme in Biology at the NUS Department of Biological Sciences.
There are just 30-40 of the Monkey left in the wild in Singapore, with urbanisation cutting into the Monkey’s native habitats. Once commonly seen at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the population has continued to dwindle even when hunting and kidnapping for the pet industry have stopped.
Andie first started to look for the endangered Banded Leaf Monkey in September 2008 when she was an undergraduate student in NUS. She was encouraged by Assoc Prof Rudolf Meier to carry out the research on the Monkey as part of her coursework. That ignited her passion for the species and the field of conversation biology and she is continuing her research as a postgraduate student.
She says little research has been done for the past 15 years and previous research consisted of “sporadic sightings which yielded few insights”. Andie continues: “One out of 10 times you can see the monkey and they are really fast.”
The excitement in her voice conveys the passion she feels about both conservation biology and the monkeys. The aim of her research is to identify factors which affect the Banded Leaf Monkey’s population size. This will help to devise and implement suitable conservation management measures to stabilise and maintain a viable population of Banded Leaf Monkey in Singapore’s remaining forests.
But limited funding made it difficult to properly study the primates, which is just one of two local species native to Singapore. Prof Peter Ng Kee Lin, director of the NUS Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR) says the funding required for the Banded Leaf Monkey project is about $50,000.
However, a generous S$500,000 gift from The Wildlife Reserves Singapore to set up the Ah Meng Memorial Conservation Fund at NUS has made a world of difference to the quality of research being carried out both in the forest and laboratory. The gift is aimed at supporting academic research and study of endangered native wildlife by NUS students and faculty members. NUS was the first recipient of funds from the Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund set up in July 2009.
Thanks to the gift, Andie has been able to buy high quality audio, camera and video equipment, a GPS system, as well as a computer for data analysis which have led to more and better quality sightings. The improved further studies on the Banded Leaf Monkey will make possible critical conservation management measures to help the native species re-populate after near extinction. With the submission of her Master’s thesis in April 2010, Andie hopes the results of her study will help save and regenerate the Banded Leaf Monkey population.
Help support local conservation efforts by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR). To make a donation to the Ah Meng Memorial Conservation Fund managed by RMBR, please email Ms Sum Foong Yee.