Image Credit: Lawrence Teo

Would you dedicate your life to conserving the planet and the creatures that inhabit this planet? In this five-part series from our June 2022 print story ‘Call Of The Wild”, we spotlight five inspiring women who are championing wildlife conservation efforts in Singapore.

Dr Andie Ang, Research Scientist at Mandai Nature and President of Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore)

Dr Andie Ang still has fond memories of her small vervet monkey called Ah Boy, that was given to her by relatives when she was 10 years old. Its fur was golden brown and underneath that, it had blue skin. At that time, nobody told her that it was illegal to keep a pet monkey, though the young girl was savvy enough to wonder if it was humane to do so.

Andie Ang and her team conducting field research at Thomson Nature Park. Image Credit: Natalie Tan

“I would usually come home from school to see it all by itself, chained under my sink. I thought, isn’t it sad that the monkey doesn’t have its freedom? So I decided to give it away to a rehab sanctuary in Zambia – it was the right thing to do,” she reminisces. Ah Boy was the reason that Dr Andie got into primatology, as she wanted to learn more about the threats monkeys faced in the illegal wildlife trade and protect them. So despite her parents’ concerns about her career prospects in wildlife conservation, she doggedly pursued her doctorate in biological anthropology from the University of Colorado Boulder.

A Raffles’ banded langur and its infant. Image Credit: Sabrina Jabbar

She now specialises in studying the Raffles’ banded langur – a critically endangered species, with only 70 found in Singapore and fewer than 300 left globally. She also wants to try and change people’s negative mindset about monkeys in general, even though it’s difficult. “The biggest misconception is that monkeys are naughty, aggressive and steal your things, because this is how they have been portrayed in the media. When there is a monkey incident, headlines always scream, ‘Monkey attacks people’. But in most cases, the animals were just defending themselves. So the media must present the full story – there must be a reason why the monkey scratched someone or retaliated, right?” she points out.

One way to change people’s views and encourage a love for flora and fauna is to give them more opportunities to be with nature, especially from a young age. For example, conduct lessons outside the classroom, she suggests. “We are used to a sterilised and manicured environment. So rather than talk about nature within four walls, there could be experiences in nature. There will be leaves around you, the rain may fall, sometimes squirrel or a bird may just run or fly by.

Andie Ang and her team. Image Credit: Andie Ang

I feel that we are managing our natural environment to the point where people don’t really dare to have or be in a wild space. But once you have experienced what’s out there, you will have less fear, because we are afraid of things that we don’t know.”