In 1967, Leow wrote a paper, Bats, Mangroves and Durians. Although it was never published, the paper was one of the earliest accounts of a pollinator relationship between bats and durian trees.
The research came about because Leow, an avid forager of wild durians, wondered why harvests were getting worse each year. Chancing upon Walter William Skeat’s Malay Magic: An Introduction to the Folklore and Popular Religion of the Malay Peninsula (1900), he read about the spiritual connection between durian trees and their “demonic, blood-sucking guardians”, bats.
Leow writes: “We are today inclined to dismiss the ancient folk knowledge of this island’s earliest inhabitants, but that is the greatest arrogance. What we understand as ‘pollination’, the old Malays of the island described as the ‘custodianship’ of bats.”
The paper goes on to argue that the decline of durian numbers must be connected to declining bat populations, which had been affected by recent reclamation activities in the Pandan area.
These were only theories, and Leow could not prove these connections. It was only after his death that scientists confirmed that the only pollinator of durian trees is the Cave Nectar Bat, a native species endangered by the loss of green cover and mangrove areas which are a major source of food and shelter.