Andie Ang’s Why

“Be brave when faced with inconvenience, when pushing your interests and ideals, and don’t give up easily.”

Dr Andie Ang doing fieldwork in Son Tra Nature Reserve, Vietnam. SOURCE: INTERVIEWEE

This week, I am happy to introduce Dr. Andie Ang, who is the Chairperson of Raffles Banded Langur Working Group, Founder of Primate Watching Online Resource, and President of Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore). Before the interview, I wondered: “Are monkeys seriously facing endangerment?” I mean, there are so many of them in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve!

Macaque spotted! SOURCE: AUTHOR

However, when primatologists met at International Primatological Society Congress in Nairobi, Kenya, on 24 August 2018, light has been shed that out of the 511 existing species of primates:

  • 60% are in danger of extinction.
  • 75% are facing a decline in numbers.

Primates, in fact, are commonly traded for biomedical research, to be kept as pets (Nascimento et al, 2013) or as bushmeat which potentially drives primates towards extinction (Bowen-Jones & Pendry, 1999).

Dr Andie Ang flew back to Singapore on the night of 27 August, from Africa. As a primatologist, her work revolves around monkeys. It was her pet vervet monkey, Ah Boy which she owned at 10 that sparked her desire to learn more on how to curb illegal wildlife trade. In her years of performing conservation work, she has travelled to many places and one of the difficulties she faced, like many other scientists, was with the inconvenience brought about by the living conditions. She recalled, there was once in Vietnam where there was no enclosed toilet. The males showered in the open, but being the only female, she couldn’t join them, and could only use wet wipes to clean herself for a week.

It surely isn’t easy being a conservationist but despite the challenges, Dr Ang believes that it is important to pursue one’s passion and not succumb to adversities. Out of curiosity, I Googled “top female conservationist” and a link brought me to 4 Women Conservationists You Should Know. Of the four, I’ve only heard of Dian Fossey.

Dian Fossey, an American primatologist. SOURCE: WIKIPEDIA

Fossey was known for her research on Gorilla beringei (mountain gorilla) in the mountain forest of Rwanda and had spent her last 18 years protecting the species. Fossey strongly opposed to wildlife tourism and poaching (Mowat, 1987), and was believed to have forged enemies with the poachers as a result of her violent campaign (Brower, 1986). On 27 December 1985, Fossey was found murdered in her bedroom (Brower, 1986).

Till date, the culprit behind Fossey’s death is still uncaught. According to the documentary, interviewees claim that Fossey’s death was a murder planned by the authorities who were against her campaigns (Hayes, 2017). I was just wondering what are the possibilities for those speculations to be true? But I should have faith in humanity, shouldn’t I? Honestly, it is way too chilling to think that Fossey’s death might sadly be planned. Having said that, I would want to share a quote by Fossey:

The man who kills the animals today, is the man who kills the people who get into his way tomorrow.

P.S. For the full interview of Andie Ang’s Why, click here!


Bowen-Jones, E., & Pendry, S. (1999). The threat to primates and other mammals from the bushmeat trade in Africa, and how this threat could be diminished. Oryx, 33(3), 233-246.

Brower, M. (1986, February 17). The Strange Death of Dian Fossey. Retrieved from People:

Hayes, Z. (Director). (2017). Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist[Motion Picture]. Retrieved from YouTube:

Mowat, F. (1987). Woman in the Mists: The Story of Dian Fossey and the Mountain Gorillas of Africa.New York: Warner Books.

Nascimento, R. A., Schiavetti, A., & Montaño, R. A. (2013). An assessment of illegal capuchin monkey trade in Bahia State, Brazil. Neotropical Biology and Conservation, 8(2), 79-87.


8 thoughts on “Andie Ang’s Why

  1. Hi WeiQian! What an interesting post about primates and the insight into the life of conservationists! I didn’t know that primates were facing such threats and that their numbers were at risks. I live near the Bukit Timah reserve and I do have to admit that I have noticed a large drop in the number of monkeys that are around now. You used to be able to see them everywhere but now you actually have to keep a close lookout in order to spot one! That being said, what are the statistics and situation surrounding primates in Singapore? You mentioned international statistics but I was just curious about some local ones, I hope you’ll be able to enlighten me on the situation!
    – Vinnie

    1. Hello Vinnie! Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and leaving nice comments!

      I tried to Google for some statistics about the monkey population in Singapore but there don’t seem to be any. I will try my best to find statistics and will update you if I manage to find any!

      Anyways, just wanted to share with you that when I was trying to find the statistics on Google, I came across this article in The Straits Times about residents complaining about monkey attacks (Yang, 2017). Personally, I would often see reports in the newspaper regarding monkey attacks. However, in Dr Ang’s opinion, she asserts that the frequent publication of monkey attacks may not be reflective of the real situation. This is because “[p]eople won’t go to the newspapers to tell them how great to see macaques feeding on natural food resources in the trees in the forest as people walk by nature areas; people also won’t call in to journalists to tell them that the macaque carrying a baby was so cute.”

      On the note of what are some of the issues monkeys in Singapore are facing, Dr Ang thinks that the biggest problem locally with monkeys, like macaques, is not the monkeys themselves, but people feeding the monkeys and drawing them away from forests and into urban areas (then people complain that monkeys enter their houses) and roads (resulting in roadkills).

      I hope this reply finds you well.

      P.S. Happy midweek!

      Wei Qian

  2. Hi Wei Qian,

    The reality of Dian Fossey’s death is chilling to say the least. I agree that we should not speculate on how her death has occurred. Also, thank you for bringing up the topic of primates and how they are facing danger.

    While I have not much knowledge on primates, I do know that urban encroachment has become an issue for them (in Singapore’s context). Back on my blog, I recently glanced through the Population White Paper that discusses population growth as a bane to the natural land.

    If we were to integrate the natural landscape into our urban areas, there will definitely be clashes between nature (in this case the monkeys in Bukit Timah) and humans. As seen in your interview with Dr. Ang, there is a need to live in harmony with wildlife.

    I would like to hear your take on how we should handle wildlife if they were to intrude into our homes (just as we did to theirs). If we were to continually grow in population, these local primates would definitely face a problem and end up dying in our hands. But before that, how should we treat these wild primates if we were to come across them? I have seen countless footage of humans interacting with animals wrongly and ended up getting injured due to their folly. If we really were to go out into the field, I would like to know how I can prevent a similar tragedy of mishandling these primates.

    Thank you!

    1. Hello Ryan! Thank you for reading my blog.

      When encountered with any wildlife, the first thing anyone should do is to keep a safe distance. Never try to disturb, provoke or harm the animals. I think everyone should be minimally equipped with this knowledge. I mean, there really is no reason for anyone to be feeding them. Oftentimes, we hear residents saying they just “want to be nice” but honestly, feeding the animals will only make the situation worse.

      After keeping a safe distance, one should then call ACRES’s 24-hour Wildlife Rescue Hotline at 9783-7782. Specific to macaque, ACRES will activate their Macaque Rescue Team, which comprises of a two-person team, upon receiving the call. Usually, the two-person team will arrive within three hours, and the team will assist residents with any human-macaque conflict issues which include herding the macaques back to their reserves.

      As you have mentioned, I certainly believe in the importance of integrating nature into our urban areas because I think this is one of the more effective methods for us to learn to appreciate the environment. That being said, there is, however, a need for more education efforts to be put in place so that individuals are more aware of what they should do and what they really shouldn’t be doing. Frankly speaking, I don’t relate to why some individuals actually have the tendency to provoke the animals. Just why would anyone want to do that? I really don’t understand.

      I hope my reply finds you well.

      Wei Qian

  3. Hey Wei Qian,

    Dr. Andie Ang is truly an inspiring individual, thanks for sharing more about her work! Like what Ryan said, we have encroached into the habitat of long-tailed macaques in Singapore as we move closer to nature reserves. This has resulted in many cases of human-wildlife conflict between us and the macaques, and AVA has deemed the macaques a threat to public safety. Some macaques had even been culled by AVA due to complaints by the public! I think that this is extremely inhumane, so I would like to ask: what do you think can be done to change the perception of people who consider wildlife a nuisance? And do you think that it would ever be possible for us to coexist with wildlife without harm to either party?

    – Jing Ying

    1. Hello Jing Ying! Thank you for reading my blog and for your nice comments!

      I agree with you that the culling of animals is incredibly inhumane and it really upsets me whenever I come across articles/news about such unfortunate events taking place. Thankfully, there has been a recent shift of emphasis from the culling of animals to promoting the coexistence of humans and wildlife. For instance, in January this year, NParks rolled out a six-month programme for individuals between 16-30 years old, to promote the importance of coexistence between humans and animals among participants of the programme.

      However, I would like to admit that I am oftentimes quite sceptical about the impacts educational programmes have on people. This is because my general perception is that many programmes are not designed to achieve what they should be meant for. Thus, at times, I do wonder if having more educational programmes will truly be effective. Nonetheless, I think at present, there aren’t even sufficient educational programmes around, to begin with. At least, during my time in primary/secondary school or in JC, there weren’t any programmes for us to understand the importance of coexisting with animals. And I strongly believe that if educational programmes are effective, they should be introduced to students as young as in primary school because habits should be inculcated since young.

      On this note, I have also always wondered: as a nation, we have set out to achieve the notion that “every school is a good school” and to help students become all-rounded, but what does being all-rounded really means? Personally, I think it means more than just achieving academic excellence and performing outstandingly in one’s co-curricular activities. I believe that it is equally vital for schools to emphasise on the importance of embracing the differences (race, religion, gender, sexuality etc) that will bound to exist among students and also to raise awareness on the importance of coexisting with nature, etc. These to me are important values that students should take away in school, but they are often neglected in our pursuit of academic excellence. Hence, I question if we are truly becoming better versions of ourselves if we can’t even be nice to another living creature, humans and animals alike.

      In regard to whether it’s possible for us to coexist with wildlife without harming either party, I think we can! I believe humans have the tendency to seek connection with nature (biophilia hypothesis), but what is crucial, is for us to know what are the dos and don’ts as we try to be closer to nature. I mean, the act of feeding macaques, for instance, isn’t helping in our co-existence with them, but some of us are unaware of it.

      I hope my reply finds you well.

      P.S. Have a great weekend! 🙂

      Wei Qian

    1. Hello Dr Coleman

      Just did a quick Google about Monkey Walks and Monkey Guards.

      I really love the idea of Monkey Walks, where participants would learn more macaque behaviour during the walk, to develop a better understanding of macaques. Consequently, this would potentially avoid misinterpretation of macaques’ expression. What really struck me, however, was a quote by Jane Goodall: “The least I can do is speak out for those who can’t speak out for themselves.” The importance of understanding the animals and coexisting with them is so important!

      Monkey Guards is a pretty interesting programme too, where the guards would train for a month to learn more about macaques. During the operation, they will be the ones to help residents get out of the conflict with macaques in a more humane way through the use of walking sticks/umbrella which they carry around with them.

      Thank you for introducing me these programmes! WOW really pretty amazing.

      Wei Qian

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