Every day, Andie Ang disappears into the forests around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. For eight hours, she treks over a distance of 10km with her camera – which weighs a hefty 3-4kg.
Her job: to collect biological data about a reclusive species known as the Raffles’ Banded Langur. The primates, which are native to Singapore, are on the brink of extinction here with a population of just 60, according to data from 2010.
But Andie’s work could change their precarious situation. The data she collects – like samples of their droppings to find out what they eat, as well as recording their movements, mortality rates and habitats – will help experts from the Raffles’ Banded Langur Working Group draw up a plan to conserve the langurs and increase their numbers. The group – which began its work in late 2016 – received $250,000 in funding from the Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund, and includes experts from the National Parks Board, the Nature Society (Singapore), and universities in both Singapore and Malaysia. Andie, who leads the project, has studied langurs since 2008.
She spends so many hours with the langurs, she can tell some of them apart. One eyes strangers suspiciously, another always sucks on its finger, while a third has an easy-going disposition.
Andie had always dreamed of becoming a primate researcher – she was fascinated by the animals’ human-like qualities. But it wasn’t easy to convince her parents that her passion could become a career. Others doubted she could make a living from it. “It doesn’t bother me,” she says. “I find meaning in what I’m doing.”
The langurs, Andie adds, are an important part of Singapore’s natural heritage. She’s also grateful to see new facts being unearthed about them. “As long as they’re still around in Singapore, I’m hopeful.”
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