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Breakthrough research on critically endangered banded leaf monkeys

21 Apr 2010



BANDED LEAF MONKEY: One of only three species of non-human primates native to Singapore, the other two being the long-tailed macaque and the Sunda slow loris


SPEAKING ON CONSERVING SINGAPORE'S BIODIVERSITY: Ambassador-At-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Special Advisor of the Institute of Policy Studies and the National Heritage Board Prof Tommy Koh saw the banded leaf monkeys as a very powerful symbol of what Singapore is trying to do to conserve the endangered species


REPORTING ON HER FINDINGS: NUS student Ms Andie Ang Hui Fang presented on her discoveries after more than one and a half years of close monitoring and research on the Banded Leaf Monkeys
A research project, spearheaded by NUS student Ms Andie Ang Hui Fang under the guidance of Assoc Prof Rudolf Meier from the NUS Evolutionary Biology Lab, revealed that the population of banded leaf monkeys had been growing in Singapore's forests, contrary to prior belief that they were on the verge of extinction. Ms Ang shared her findings on the banded leaf monkeys at "An Evening Dedicated to Conserving Singapore's Biodiversity" on 16 April 2010, organised in celebration of 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity.

Also featuring three other conservation projects by NUS students on flagship species in Singapore, the event saw good turnout and much enthusiasm from students, faculty staff and key representatives from several nature/conservation-related organisations, including Wildlife Reserves and National Parks Board (NParks) which supported the projects. Also in attendance as Guest-of-Honour was Ambassador-At-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Special Advisor of the Institute of Policy Studies and the National Heritage Board Prof Tommy Koh.

Prof Koh recounted the comments made some years ago by a foreign expert on Singapore's biodiversity. The latter had said that although Singapore was a very small island and highly urbanised, it was home to five times the number of species of trees and twice as many species of mammals as the United Kingdom. "So we must do whatever we can, together with the rest of the world, to slow down the loss of biological diversity," said Prof Koh. He added, "Let's try to do something to conserve the banded leaf monkeys because it is a very powerful symbol of what we are trying to do in Singapore to conserve the endangered species, both of plants and trees as well as mammals."

The banded leaf monkey is one of only three species of non-human primates native to Singapore. Previous estimates of its population size in Singapore were 10 in the 1980s and 10 to 15 in the 1990s, but Ms Ang's research showed that this number had grown to at least 40. Among other findings, including factors threatening their survival, she also discovered that the female banded leaf monkeys were reproducing successfully with at least one breeding cycle every July and infant observed.

Throughout the project, Ms Ang received invaluable counsel from Assistant Prof Michael Gumert from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and assistance from NParks research officer Mirza Rifqi Ismail. Funding for her research came from the Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund (WRSCF) through the Ah Meng Memorial Conservation Fund (AMMCF). The banded leaf monkey project is the first to receive funding from AMMCF, which obtained $500,000 from WRSCF over a five-year period for conducting academic research and studies pertaining to endangered wildlife.

Moving forward, the monitoring of population changes will continue, along with studies on the forest's botanical composition for gauging the sustainability of their habitat, and further development of conservation measures.



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