Sparking the Future of Langurs and Malaysian Youths

| by Dusky Hao Ran

I have to constantly push myself through unpleasant things in life

I have to constantly push myself through

unpleasant things in life

How do I found myself into Langur Project Penang?

Having the opportunity to study Zoology in Melbourne is something that I will always be grateful for. However, the pandemic threw 1/3 of my degree online and delayed the other 1/3 for a whole year.

I still wanted to make the most of my time, so after a lot of searching, I managed to join Langur Project Penang in December 2020.

Since we couldn’t cross states, I did whatever I could to help remotely, such as producing social media content and going through camera trap footage. In retrospect, it was such an interesting and unique feeling. You can feel yourself getting more attached to the langurs, even though none of them appeared in the hundreds of footage you spent the whole day staring at.

Photo of a plantain squirrel on the canopy bridge from camera trap

I think it’s about anticipation, and knowing that your work will make a real-life impact on the langurs. When someone in the LPP community spots a langur, we would all cheer with excitement, as if it’s our first discovery every single time. When each passionate individuals come together, it’s incredible how our feelings merge into a much larger flame that warms everyone. To be in such proximity to this environment, really felt different than watching from afar.

If you happen to be like me, a Malaysian youth looking to learn and polish skills as much as possible, LPP has a lot to offer. Attention to detail, patience, creativity, graphic design, copywriting, are just a few of the many things you get to practice. Even without prior experience, the friendly LPP team will guide you as we explore things together.

Finally I could meet the team in person!

As restrictions loosen up in December 2021, I finally drove to Penang to meet the team in person. On my first day, we went to the “LangUR: Building Bridges Between Our Worlds” wildlife art exhibition at the Penang State Gallery.

At first glance, the hall was a pretty humble one, but after a detailed tour around, I had a whole new appreciation for galleries. Ivan, the guest curator for the exhibition, linked each artwork into a storyline. Not only that every piece had its meaning, but even their location in the hall also carries its meaning. It’s the first time I’ve noticed the use of the whole 3D space to create such an immersive gallery experience. Ivan’s effort added more value to the artwork, and I can see how easily it could connect others to langur appreciation.

Social Engagement

I also had the chance to go to a few booths to do environmental education with LPP. I must thank the team for their patience again, for supporting me when I was trying to pick my social skills back up. Just watching them work to engage the local community inspired me. Just when I thought I did a good enough job giving zoo tours in the past, the LPP team reminded me that no matter how tired you feel, you should always push to exceed expectations.

I’ve always said I wanted to be a person who does that, but somewhere along the way my stamina dimmed down and I felt ashamed for lying to myself. LPP was the wake-up call I needed, and the following booth days were so much more enjoyable. I still have much to break through and improve on, but I’m glad to be taking big steps again.

Me (on the right) sharing about threats of Dusky Langur to the public
Me (on the right) playing mini-game with kids

Fieldwork Experience

Fieldwork with Khai Xian was great too. It’s the first time I’ve woken up so early for the langurs and stared at them for so long. Finally seeing the langurs up close was such a special experience for me. The way they move in the trees reminds me of childhood dreams of a secret treehouse I used to have. They made leaves look so appetising I almost wanted to try some.

A dusky langur enjoying a “tasty” leaf

Imagine being a langur, leaping into your food, sitting and sleeping among your food! It’s the Penang version of a “Hakuna Matata” life! As with other things in life, fieldwork had its challenges. Not to mention the ever-spawning mosquitoes, fieldwork can get boring after a while. Especially when the langurs are sleeping and all you can do is wait.

It’s also pretty challenging to identify the langurs since they might be in a position that makes them hard to see. I will always be impressed by how quickly Khai Xian can identify each langur, and how he managed to keep himself going after so many years.

A dusky langur resting on a branch (view from binoculars)

My biggest takeaway from fieldwork was that there is no escape from boredom if you want to be an achiever. I used to think I should be able to only do what I enjoy when I am done with the university since I went through all those years of the less-enjoyable curriculum.

I worked hard to enjoy life in the future. But now, I have realised that I have to constantly push myself through unpleasant things in life because things just have to be done. I will reconsider my plans because of my time with LPP, and I’m hoping it takes me somewhere nice.

My thoughts

When Malaysia pays little attention to wildlife conservation, and our politicians constantly disappoint our people, I believe LPP is that bright spark in Penang, building bridges for the langurs, and the youths of Malaysia.

Volunteering with LPP has been a lovely journey, and now I have one more thing to always be grateful for.

Signing off,

Hao Ran

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