Farewell Nad, monkey queen

Feng Zengkun Straits Times 6 May 12;

She was a queen among the monkeys at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, and a darling of scientists from here to the United States.

Nad, seen here with an offspring in a 2010 photo, contributed much to research. She died after she was hit by a car. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF CRYSTAL MARIE RILEY

So revered was Nad the macaque that, following her death from being hit by a car on April 26, animal researchers near and far have paid the most loving of tributes to her.

Last Friday, two scientists here laid a wreath along Hindhede Road, just outside the reserve, to mark where she was run over.

Middle-aged Nad and her 60-strong troop have contributed to research around the world, in fields ranging from infectious diseases to monkey behaviour.

Described by scientists as 'the coolest, most popular and most respected' female of her group, she even charmed a scientist from National Geographic who visited in March to test an animal-tracking device.

Nad, who was not exactly svelte, was hard to miss, scientists told The Sunday Times; she had such imposing proportions, she was often mistaken for a male.

Ms Amy Klegarth, 24, a research assistant at the University of Notre Dame in the US, said: 'When she moved, tree branches bent more for her than for the other monkeys.'

Despite her size, the famously slow-moving queen of the reserve's largest band of monkeys rarely resorted to violence to get her way.

She seemed to rule by sheer dint of her charisma. Up to three monkeys groomed her at a time, like court attendants.

She was always unfazed, even cold, said Singaporean graduate student Oliver Sng, 27.

She also believed in leading from the front, protecting the troop, said Dr Lisa Jones-Engel, 46, the head of an American infectious diseases laboratory who has collected monkey genetic samples from Singapore since 2003.

Dr Jones-Engel said: 'More than the adult males, Nad led the females in her group to watch our every move and warn other monkeys about us. As a mother myself, I deeply respect her.'

It is believed Nad had at least three healthy infants, the last, a daughter, only last August.

No one saw the car that hit her, but scientists here said other macaques have been killed or maimed by cars in the area.

Nature abhors a vacuum. A new queen nicknamed Goldmoon has slipped into Nad's place in the troop - if not into the scientists' hearts.

But one of Nad's older daughters, Sunny, might well be waiting in the wings.

Assistant professor Michael Gumert of the Nanyang Technological University, who tracked Nad for five years, said: 'Perhaps some day, she'll grow to fill her mother's social position.'