Efforts From Every Individual And Organisation Will Help To Keep Our Planet Perpetual
When Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund research assistant Sabrina Jabbar was growing up, she was cared for by her grandmother, who showed a soft spot for all things nature-related. Inspired by her grandmother, the 29-year-old soon developed a love for animals. "I grew up watching animal documentaries and reading a lot about animals," she said. This affinity and passion for animals has also defined her profession. "It made me decide to work closely with animals, particularly primates because we share so many things alike."
She started her career as a zookeeper with the Night Safari before she transferred to the Singapore Zoo, discovering her love for primates. With a greater exposure to the animal world, she found her calling to effect change and help local wildlife—macaques, in particular—there. In 2013, Sabrina then joined the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, where she "not only attended to various human-macaque conflict cases but also rescued, rehabilitated and released injured macaques" to nature.
It was at Acres where she met primatologist and Generation T 2018 honouree Andie Ang. "I was impressed by her passion and love for animals, especially monkeys. Macaques are often misunderstood as aggressive and do not receive as much attention as other charismatic wildlife," said Andie. "It was good to see Sabrina devoting love to an 'unloved' species and also encouraging to see young individuals like her, who are concerned with wildlife and environmental issues, working hard to raise awareness and making positive changes."
A Greater Impact
Today, Sabrina is also one of the volunteers serving in the Long-tailed Macaque Working Group, which seeks to educate Singaporeans in understanding macaques better. One of the key initiatives she works on there is the Monkey Guards programme, during which the group conducts public outreach to educate people about macaque behaviour, door-to-door residential surveys and also teaches the public ways and means to guide the primates away from residential estates and back into the forest. In 2017, the programme, ably led by Sabrina, even received funding, which allowed the group to help the Dairy Farm estate, one of the residential areas deemed to require assistance urgently.
The Monkey Guards programme is also one of the highlights in her career. "It's been amazing to craft the Monkey Guards programme at Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore), have it implemented and used as a modern approach towards mitigating human-macaque conflict," she said. "Being able to witness a small project expand [into a larger-scaled initiative] and being utilised by agencies such as National Parks Board and Wildlife Reserves Singapore, and even extending to friends abroad at [animal protection and conservation non-profit] International Animal Rescue in Bogor, Indonesia, has been very humbling."
While she feels encouraged by the successful implementation of the Monkey Guards programme, Sabrina knows that the need to protect endangered primates is not fully understood by the general public and more is required to be done.
"The biggest challenge I face at work right now is people's ignorance coupled with the mindset that the status of the species doesn’t concern and affect them," she remarked, adding that the masses have this "high dependency on nature groups, especially NGOs," and believe that they do all the conservation work. That said, she is glad that there has been "a steady increase in awareness of the pressing issues" but there still exists a gap in which people are not so willing to step forward to help or address the problems. "It is only after allowing them to see the bigger picture will they be able to grasp the whole idea and have a sense of urgency to act."
It's been amazing to craft the Monkey Guards programme at Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore), have it implemented and used as a modern approach towards mitigating human-macaque conflict. Being able to witness a small project expand [into a larger-scaled initiative] and being utilised by agencies such as National Parks Board and Wildlife Reserves Singapore, and even extending to friends abroad at [animal protection and conservation non-profit] International Animal Rescue in Bogor, Indonesia, has been very humbling.
— Sabrina Jabbar, primate research assistant at Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund
An External Push
To that end, Andie believes that contribution—no matter big or small—from every individual will go on to effect a bigger impact. Having been one of the finalists in the Rolex Awards for Enterprise (RAE) 2014 and being an invited guest of Singapore Tatler at the Perpetual Planet Symposium last year, she is also aware of how much more effective a bigger platform can be in spreading the conservation message. Both the RAE and symposium come under the watchmaker's efforts for the Perpetual Planet initiative, which is made up of three pillars—the enhanced partnership with National Geographic Society and marine oceanographer Sylvia Earle's Mission Blue initiative that identifies marine-protected "Hope Spots" on top of the awards.
"Every bit of contribution, whether from private corporations, institutions or government agencies, makes a difference. Initiatives like the Rolex Perpetual Planet deliver critical and current issues to the wider public and can be the catalyst to bring about positive differences. Their support can help like-minded individuals achieve more and effectively," said Andie.
(Related: What Generation T Honourees Think About The Rolex Perpetual Planet Campaign)
With extra help and support from external agencies and private organisations, Sabrina is confident that she would be able to achieve even more in her conservation journey. For one, she would like to devote more time to observing and photographing the lesser-known side of the macaques. "The photographs will act as stories that will focus on individual characters, their social lives and their interaction with other types of wildlife," she said. "These photographs can be displayed at bus stops, for example, as a movement to get people to learn to appreciate and live with them harmoniously. I always believe in the power of using photographs to change mindsets and move hearts."
- Images Sabrina Jabbar and Andie Ang
- Photography Benny Loh