Lim Boo Liat (21 August 1926 – 11 July 2020) was a Malaysian zoologist. His pioneering work revealed the biological diversity of Malaysia and made him a strong advocate for the conservation of the country's natural heritage. Lim was the first Southeast Asian to be awarded Honorary Membership to the American Society of Mammalogists.
1 Early years
4 Death and legacy
5 Awards and recognition
6 External links
Lim Boo Liat was born 21 August 1926 in Klang, Selangor. Nature lessons in school inspired a love for the outdoors, and he spent time in his youth collecting plants and insects.
Lim was sixteen years old when World War II came to Malaya, disrupting his studies; he worked odd jobs to support his family. He traveled to Carey Island and set up machinery to harvest salt from sea water. During his time on the island, he learned to identify animals from the indigenous people, the Orang Asli.
Although lacking formal education, the zoological knowledge Lim learned on Carey Island provided the opportunity to take a temporary lab assistant position at the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) in Kuala Lumpur. His first assignment was studying scrub typhus, carried from mites to rats. Further studies also focused on small mammals and parasites, and involved travel throughout Southeast Asia under the auspices of the Bishop Museum. During this time, he also helped found the National Zoo of Malaysia and helped reestablish the Malaysian Nature Society after a hiatus caused by World War II. After a three-year break to earn his masters degree, Lim returned to the IMR as a zoologist in 1972, heading the IMR's Medical Ecology Division.
In 1977, Lim became the head of the Vector Biology Control Research Unit of the World Health Organisation in Jakarta, Indonesia. His work there included research on plague, malaria control, and rodent control. He worked at the WHO until his retirement in 1987.
After his retirement, Lim became the honorary consultant on zoology for the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia, helping to establish a research laboratory for small animals. Throughout his career, he was an author on over 300 scientific papers and wrote multiple books, including Poisonous Snakes of Peninsula Malaysia (1979), Orang Asli Animal Tales (1981), and Turtles of Borneo (1999).
In 1959 Lim received a Sino-British Fellowship Trust Award and spent a year and a half studying animal ecology and the taxonomy of mammals under Charles S. Elton at Oxford University and George Dunnet at Aberdeen University. Lim received a Medical Research Council Fellowship in 1969 to complete his masters degree in science from the University of Aberdeen.
He was the first person to be awarded a Ph.D. from Universiti Sains Malaysi in 1977.
Death and legacy
Lim died at his home in Cheras on 11 July 2020.
He was the fourth Asian and first Southeast Asian to be awarded honorary membership to the American Society of Mammalogists, "conferred in recognition of a distinguished career in service to mammalogy". Lim had multiple species named after him, including snake Oligodon booliati, protozoa Sarcocytis booliati, frog Kalophrynus limbooliati, flea Medwayellia limi, chigger Babiangia booliati, and parasitic worms Helimonella limbooliati, Plasmodium booliati, and Brienlia booliati.
He was particularly well-respected for his dedication to supporting the careers of biologists and conservationists at the beginning of their careers, providing mentorship and ensuring younger scientists had opportunities to publish.
Awards and recognition
1959 Sino-British Fellowship Trust Award from the British Council
1978 Sandosham Gold Medal from the Malaysian Society of Parasitology and Tropical Medicine
1995 Science and Technology Award from the Malaysia Toray Science Foundation
2003 Honorary Member of the American Society of Mammalogists
2007 Elected Fellow of the Akademi Sains Malaysia
2007 Spallanzani Award from the North American Society for Bat Research
2013 Merdeka Award, environment category
2014 interview with Dr. Lim Boo Liat
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