In land-scarce and ultra-modern Singapore, it's not uncommon to still encounter monkeys in the wild, which people sometimes deem a nuisance. So how can local residents appreciate the fact that some of these primates are rare and special in our natural landscape?
Unbeknownst to the majority of people in Singapore, the Raffles’ banded langur (formerly known as the banded leaf monkey) is one of only three non-human primates to be found locally. It's so named because it was discovered by Sir Stamford Raffles almost 200 years ago.
Until the 1920s, these monkeys were common in Singapore and could easily be spotted in Changi, Tampines, Bukit Timah, Pandan and Tuas. However, with the city-state’s rapid urban development, forests had to be cleared, leading to habitat loss and confining the banded langurs to only Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Nature Reserve. In the 1980s, the population in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve was completely extirpated. In the 1990s, with only 15 to 20 left in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the banded langurs were thought to be on the verge of extinction.
Thankfully, ongoing field research since 2010 has revealed that an estimated 40 to 60 banded langurs are still left in Singapore. Although its population has slowly increased, being a small and isolated group, the langurs still face a high risk of extinction, with insufficient genetic diversity among them to ensure their survival.