Every year, we scope out 18 women who are driven by a desire to bring positive change and have achieved success in their chosen field as part of the Great Women Of Our Time awards. Meet 2019’s Science & Technology nominee, Dr Andie Ang, Research Scientist, Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund & President, Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore):
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Meet Dr Andie Ang – Great Women Of Our Time 2019 Science & Technology Nominee
Passionate about protecting the endangered Raffles’ banded langur, a species of leaf-eating monkey found only in Singapore and southern Malaysia, Dr Ang chairs the Raffles’ Banded Langur Working Group to study and conserve the species.
In her spare time, she also volunteers as the President of the Jane Goodall Institute to facilitate educational outreach, raise awareness and promote an appreciation for our local wildlife.
“Studying monkeys is not monkey business, it is serious business,” she shares with a laugh. “At times I wonder if anything that I’m doing is actually making a positive change for our environment but I always find myself wanting to do more to help.”
It all started when Dr Ang had her first brush with a primate when she was a tender 10-year-old and it cemented a lifelong love for the species.
“I received a male vervet monkey as a gift when I was younger and kept him as a pet for five years,” says Dr Ang who soon understood that keeping him away from the wild was not the way for animals to live.
“With the help of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), we repatriated him back to Africa where he belonged.”
After furthering her studies in the US – where she made the drastic decision to switch from Engineering to Biology – she is now a leading primate researcher in Singapore.
“I chair the Raffles’ Banded Langur Working Group which is tasked to study and conserve the species; a project funded by Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund,” she explains.
“There were a number of challenges that I faced when studying this rare and little known monkey species; for instance, in the beginning, I just couldn’t find them in the forests so I had no data to show for my research.”
She recalls that while many fellow classmates and friends were encouraging, there were also people who said she should give up on her studies as they doubted her abilities and suitability for fieldwork.
“It was appalling and discouraging when I was told that I might have poorer physical stamina in the field because I was a female. My advisor and mentor, Professor Rudolf Meier, told me to focus on one thing and one thing only, which was to keep going into the forests to look for the langurs, and I would eventually find them,” she remembers.
“And guess what? I did.”
Despite loving what she does, she confesses that the job comes with its own set of pitfalls.
“I get quite depressed when I understand how bad the state of our environment is and when I witness all the atrocious acts done to wildlife,” says the 34-year-old.
“It is difficult to keep doing what I do when I may feel better turning my back and pretending everything’s okay. At times I wonder if anything that I am doing is actually making a positive change. When that happens, I go away for a while but will still find myself coming back to this line of work.”
For those looking to pursue a life as a primatologist, Dr Andie had some advice to share.
“Like many career paths, the field of primatology, anthropology, and conservation is quite specialised. I would advise people to think very carefully whether it is a job that they feel passionate about before entering this industry.
“It is also a field that can make people depressed and discouraged, given the state of our natural environment. We must try our best to maintain positivity and hope if not, it would be difficult to keep going. One person that I have always admired is Jane Goodall whose unwavering commitment toward making the world a better place for animals, people, and the environment is something we should all emulate.”
Photos: Vee Chin & Tan Wei Te
Fashion Direction: Aaron Kok
Styling Assistants: Juliet Suen & An Lyn Chee
Hair: Jason Wong/Salon Nu, Grego & Ash Loi/Sonder Salon
Makeup: Keith Bryant Lee, Hongling Lim, Rina Sim, Wee Ming & Jyue Huey (for Shann Sok)
Location: 89NR, The Working Capitol, Botanico at The Garage & The Summerhouse
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