APR 08, 2002

Hope remains for last monkeys

WHEN Miss Lua Hoi Kheng looked out of the window of her house near Bukit Timah Hill in 1987, she saw a banded leaf monkey descending a tree - into the snapping jaws of five dogs.

By the time the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research curator chased them away, the monkey was seriously injured.

She said: 'It died minutes later.'

The elderly female monkey, the last member of a tribe at Bukit Timah forest, now gazes sadly at visitors from a container in the museum.

Only about 20 of these creatures, believed to be unique to Singapore, are now left in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

But environmental consultant Carsten Huttche, who did his Masters project here on this monkey, has come up with a plan which may pull the creatures back from the brink of extinction.

He is looking into bringing in monkeys living in Johor to refresh the population here. He suspects they are identical.

'But we'll have to prove it first,' he said.

He is working with the authorities here and in Johor to check and see if they are a genetic match through DNA printing.

He has calculated that if they are, adding six new animals every decade over the next 40 years, to those existing here now would lead to a stable population of about 40 of the animals.

'If not, there's a high chance they'll be extinct in 30 years.'



Copyright 2002 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.