Vet lives in zoo, literally

SINGAPORE- She was just a month into her job as a veterinarian with Wildlife Reserves Singapore, when Dr Ng Weng Yan, 28, moved into the zoo.

Well, into the zoo's vacant veterinary staff quarters to be precise.

It was November 2009 and she remembers it clearly: "It provided me the unique opportunity of combining my love of emergency medicine and wildlife medicine.

"When I am called back at night, it is often for emergency medical conditions. I have to think on my feet and act quickly and decisively, a challenge I relish."

Located in a forested patch facing the reservoir, the staff quarters also gave Dr Ng the opportunity to savour the peace and quiet that is unlike living anywhere else in Singapore.

Her husband lives there with her. They have no children.

"Where else can I have wild macaques on my porch?"

Dr Ng grew up reading books about animals, zoos, veterinarians and watching nature documentaries.

"My childhood idols were James Herriot, Gerald Durrell, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and, of course, Sir David Attenborough."

At 18, she became one of the youngest docents - or volunteer guides - chosen and assigned to the primates section.

"I looked forward to spending every weekend in the natural surroundings of the Primate Kingdom ... and I felt like I belonged here at the Singapore Zoo," she says.

Dr Ng graduated from Murdoch University at the end of 2007 and worked at a clinic in Western Australia.

"I loved working there, but I always knew at the back of my mind that I would love to return to Singapore Zoo as a full-fledged veterinarian," she says.

Dr Ng says her family has always been supportive of all her decisions - from volunteering at the zoo, to becoming a veterinarian and moving into the staff quarters.

Their only protest: her long hours and dedication to the animals mean that there is not much time left for them, she confesses with a smile.

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