Pioneering zoology in Malaysia
Lim Boo Liat (21 August 1926 - 11 July 2020)
Lim Boo Liat (21 August 1926 – 11 July 2020), a leading authority in the conservation of Malaysia’s biological diversity, had his initial interest in the outdoors piqued by nature lessons in school. Lim, who helped found the National Zoo of Malaysia and re-establish the Malaysian Nature Society, had a particular interest in researching zoonotic diseases associated with small animals.
His path to becoming a celebrated zoologist began humbly. When World War II disrupted his studies, Lim worked odd jobs to support his family, including a stint on Carey Island where he harvested salt from seawater. It was there that Lim learned to identify animals from the Indigenous people living on the island, known as Orang Asli. Despite his lack of formal education, this knowledge opened the door for Lim to take up a position as a temporary laboratory assistant at the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) in Kuala Lumpur. After earning his Master’s degree, Lim returned to IMR to head its medical ecology division and pursue his interest in zoonotic diseases. In 2003, he became the first Southeast Asian person to become an honourary member of The American Society of Mammalogists (ASM).