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Google Doodle commemorates Malaysia’s Pioneering Zoologist, Dr. Lim Boo Liat

Google Doodle is honouring the late Dr. Lim Boo Liat, an eminent zoologist and mammalogist who dedicated his life to unearthing and conserving Malaysia’s biological diversity. He helped start Zoo Negara and wrote more than 300 scientific publications about mammalogy and parasitology.

On this day in 2003, Dr. Lim was awarded an Honorary Membership to the American Society of Mammalogists (ASM) for his outstanding contribution to the science of mammalogy. He was the first Southeast Asian (and only the fourth Asian) to become an Honorary Member of the ASM, an award that dates back to 1919.

The life and career of Lim Boo Liat

Pictured: Dr. Lim Boo Liat in his study room.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Dr. Lim’s family

Dr. Lim was born on August 21, 1926 in Klang, Selangor. He was first exposed to small animals and insects during his time in high school when he would frequent the local school garden . In 1941, World War II hit Malaysia and Lim being only 16, was forced to abandon his studies and take on odd jobs to support his family. This led him to Carey Island in the coastal region of Selangor in 1944, where he befriended the Orang Asli, and learned how to identify animals from them.

In 1947, after the war, he applied for a temporary Lab Assistant job at the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) in Kuala Lumpur. The zoological knowledge that he obtained from the Orang Asli also led him to his first role which found him involved in field biological research under his mentors, the late Professor J.L. Harrison (Medical Zoologist) and the late Professor J.R. Audy (Medical Ecologist) specializing in host-parasite relationships in the study of zoonotic diseases.

In 1952, he was promoted to a permanent Lab Assistant and was involved in a number of scientific expeditions. From 1955 to 1969, he published more than 80 scientific papers on vertebrate animals and was asked to head a newly founded Medical Ecology Division at the IMR. He became an expert recognized by both local and foreign research institutions in the study of animals and their role in the transmission of diseases. He founded the concept of ‘ecological labeling by parasite pattern’ in which parasites and food habits of small mammals were good indicators of their behavioral habits in their natural environments. The finding was published in the Zoological Society of London’s Journal of Zoology in 1967.

Seeing his potential and expertise in the field, a few professors from European universities paved the way for him to pursue his Master’s Degree, despite his lack of a formal education. In fact, Dr. Lim did not even receive his Bachelor’s Degree before his sponsorship to the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. He returned to Malaysia in 1972 and continued running the Medical Ecology Division, this time as a full-fledged zoologist. Dr. Lim received his PhD in Zoology at the Universiti Sains Malaysia in 1977 and was seconded to the World Health Organization (WHO) in Indonesia where he headed the Vector Biology Control Research Unit in charge of conducting research on subjects such as plague, malaria control, and rodent control, until his retirement in 1987.

Even after retiring, he remained active in the scene, assisting research studies for undergraduate and postgraduate students at local universities and was involved in the conservation of natural history in association with government and non-government agencies.

Be sure to also check out Google Malaysia’s YouTube channel where they share some messages from Dr. Lim’s close associates where they talked about his impact on the study of local fauna and the lives of many in the industry.

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