In 2013, I was delighted to feature a photo of Annette the long-tailed macaque of the Hindhede troop, catching forty winks. The then pregnant Annette reminded us of the day to day exploits of our local native primates go through, not unlike ourselves.
Researcher Amanda Tan had shared that image over twitter as she prepared for field studies in Thailand for her graduate work. Similarly, another of Singapore’s ‘monkey girls’, Sabrina Jaafar, shares stories of her encounters with various individuals and troops during her work with monkeys through Facebook.
These primate workers had transformed their study subjects into well-loved individuals who have been followed by many of us, who sit far away in our offices, dreaming of the forest. And their stories have guided my students as well.
Photo by Amanda Tan, 2013
The urban animals tough, resourceful or adaptable enough to survive alongside us in urban Singapore face many challenges. Long-tailed macaques in Singapore face being trapped and killed which has eliminated one-third the population in some years. The native monkeys also face an onslaught by fast traffic on small roads adjacent to nature reserves. Sabrina has chronicled several such tragedies and other primate researches I talk to have noted broken bones and other injuries in study subjects over the years. Her words have not gone unnoticed.
In 2012, naturalists local and overseas were upset to read of the death of Nad, the reigning queen from the Hindhede troop. It was wretched, and should not have happened that close to the nature reserve when cars should be travelling carefully. Then last week (8th February 2017), I discovered that yet again, an avoidable death had occured – Annette, like Nad before her, was mercilessly killed by a speeding car, on a small road next to the nature reserve.
Sabrina and Amanda penned these thoughts, which they agreed to share.
Sabrina Jabbar wrote (8th February 2017),
“The demise of animals whom you had studied and contributed to conservation, are always the hardest.
Annette, the reigning queen of the Hindhede troop lost her life after being hit by a speeding car on Monday evening. She has been a significant study subject for many years and known by many of us as the prettiest girl with a very unique character. She has played such a vital role during the Monkey Guards project in 2015 and has helped all my Monkey friends in their individual study and survey. Annette used to dislike me as I was always walking in between her and the residential houses during the Monkey Guards project, so that she can’t enter. But over time, she has learnt to trust my intentions and it had led to some very remarkable milestones during the project.
Residents grew fond of her when they watched videos of her comical antics. I treasured the friendship we had and it was always a pleasure to introduce her to residents and participants at the Monkey Walk. She tops my list as the most number of individual Macaque photo taken. It is really a shame for beautiful wild animals like Annette, who have to die in this manner. It is a great loss for her troop. Her daughter was sighted sniffing the site where the unfortunate incident took place.
Till date, I cannot understand negligent drivers driving along the roads of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. I do not hope for much given the mindset of “complain so cull”, but may this help, especially to those who misunderstands them realize that the Macaques are unique individuals, and the passing of one can affect the group overall. And i will repeat time and time again – drive carefully around nature reserves. Is the need for speed really necessary?
We will miss you very dearly, Annette. I will miss all your grunts and antics. Thank you for teaching me to take life as it comes. RIP pretty girl.”
Amanda Tan, who is revisiting her tool-using long-tail macaque troop in Thailand, wrote (9th February 2017):
“Annette, your beautiful face, charm, and devil-may-care attitude stood out immediately to me when I first visited the Hindhede group seven years ago. You were the first monkey I came to know, and the first to teach me about the colorful personalities and rich social lives of macaques, so often just seen as the “common” or “pest” monkeys. As I followed you and your group, I developed the passion for learning and sharing as much as I can about macaques, in the hopes of changing, or at least expanding perceptions of these easily overlooked primates. That has started me on this strange but incredible journey of studying monkeys, and it has truly enriched my life, with places, people, and experiences I would never have had otherwise. People often ask me, why monkeys, why macaques, why not chimps or orangutans? I wish they could have spent a day with you. RIP beautiful girl.
Its useless now to hope for the driver who did this to feel remorseful, but I wish for everyone driving around nature reserves to drive slowly and responsibly. Watch out for monkeys and other wildlife. Each of their lives matter.”
As the garden city evolves, our management of wildlife will need to mature as well. Fast cars along small roads adjacent to nature parks and nature reserves need to be slowed, by design, law and education. Buffers around these areas which were set aside as a refuge to nature must allow for the safety of both wildlife and park users. The one follows the other.
Annette should have been around for many more years, to delight and educate many more students, researchers and residents. Rest well, my friend.
Photo by Joys Tan, who got to know Annette during her 2014/15 thesis work