Lord Cranbrook is a global leader in the fields of mammalogy, ornithology and zooarchaeology (the study of faunal remains). He has helped pioneer wildlife research in Malaysia, Indonesia and Britain, along the way raising awareness on biodiversity and ecology.
His career began with academic research on cave swiftlets – a bird species unique for its use of echolocation and for building edible nests in Niah Cave while employed at the Sarawak Museum in the mid-1950s where he was responsible for tasks such as sorting out bird specimens and proofreading catalogues. He also sorted out animal bones and remains from archaeological excavations and introduced systematic identification. He went on to pursue his PhD at University of Birmingham in 1958 and was a post-doctoral fellow in Indonesia for two years before returning to Malaysia to lecture at Universiti Malaya, from 1961 to 1970.
Since then, he has written or contributed to more than a dozen books, including Mammals of Borneo (1965), Wild Mammals of Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) and Singapore (1968) and Birds of the Malay Peninsula (with DR Wells, 1976).
He is credited with helping to establish the university’s field study centre in Gombak, Selangor. Located on 120ha of forest that teems with well-documented flora and fauna, the centre is still used by both local and foreign researchers for their field work and ecological studies. Lord Cranbrook has also organised numerous scientific expeditions – such as to Gunung Benom, Pahang in 1967 and to Gunung Lawit, Terengganu, in 1974 – jointly with the Museum of Natural History.
In 2005, he received the Panglima Negara Bintang Sarawak (Honorary) which carries the title “Datuk Seri”, and in 2014, WWF International presented him with the 2014 Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Award for his outstanding service to the environment. He also received the Merdeka Award in 2014, for his contributions towards raising awareness of conservation issues in Malaysia.