Every day is a new adventure when you are following a research team into the jungle. For Penang-based illustrator and art teacher Leong Yoke Mee, who goes by the name Ammi, it was a memorable and touching experience – one that prompted her to start working on artwork for a children’s picture book on the endangered dusky langurs (Trachypithecus obscurus) initiative by the Langur Project Penang (LPP).
“I experienced what the researchers do in the field, carrying a heavy backpack with a camera, binoculars, recording devices and notebooks, and getting neck pain from looking up into the trees for long periods of time.
“The dusky langurs in LPP’s study sites were so used to the presence of this group that they didn’t run away when they saw us. They watched us from high up in the trees with their big round eyes, sometimes coming close enough for me to observe them eating and resting. Once, a dusky langur pooped right in front of me. That made me feel special,” says Ammi.
LPP is a citizen science-based primate research and conservation project under the umbrella of non-governmental organisation Malaysian Primatological Society (MPS). It studies the ecology, behaviour and road ecology of dusky langurs in Penang, working alongside local communities and governmental authorities for sustainable langur conservation in Penang.
It was a happy day when the LPP installed the first urban canopy bridge in Teluk Bahang, Penang in early 2019 to assist arboreal wildlife like dusky langurs, long-tailed macaques and squirrels cross the road safely.
A Friend Of Dusky Langur, with text by LPP founder Jo Leen Yap and illustrations by Ammi, captures this journey.
This is the first book published by Ammi Art Studio. A crowdfunding campaign was held in May to raise funds for publishing this book. The team is determined to push ahead with plans to print 3,000 copies.
“The public can pre-order the book through us. The book will hopefully be available by the end of July or the beginning of August. We also plan to make A Friend Of Dusky Langur into an e-book at a later date,” says Ammi.
Her illustrations can be found in other books, such as I Belong To The Forest and A Seahorse Story, the former about a sun bear cub in captivity and its subsequent rescue, and the latter about a seahorse in its habitat.
“While these two books focus on the animals, A Friend Of Dusky Langur showcases the conservationists, too. A Friend Of Dusky Langur is set in Bukit Mertajam and George Town. There are 30 pages of illustrations and six pages of photos, with basic information about dusky langurs and LPP, making it a 36-page full-colour picture book. All illustrations here are watercolour paintings with colour pencil outline,” she says.
Some fun facts about the dusky langur?
Ammi offers this: The dusky langur infant appears orange or bright yellow in colour for the first few months, gradually turning dark grey as they grow.
Compared to the long-tailed macaques, dusky langurs are relatively shy and often go into hiding upon seeing people in the forest.
“Dusky langurs help keep the forest healthy and balanced by dispersing tree seeds. Studying and understanding the species will help us to better learn to co-exist and protect our natural heritage from extinction.
“We hope that this book will convey the message that we can all be conservation heroes for our homeland. Start from wherever you know the animals, start with whatever you can do to help,” she says.
A Friend Of Dusky Langur is written in English and Chinese.
A portion from the book sale profits will be donated to LPP for dusky langur research, conservation and education work.