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For the love of lemurs

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Patricia C. Wright, 69, of Sound Beach, NY has been awarded the 2014 Indianapolis Prize in recognition of her work to protect endangered lemurs in Madagascar. She is the first woman to ever be so honored during the prize’s 8-year history.

“It is a wonderful, wonderful day,” exclaimed Wright, a professor and primate expert at Stony Brook University after being presented with the $250,000 prize sponsored by the Indianapolis Zoo. “Iwhat an extraordinary opportunity, not just for me, but for Madagascar and the lemurs.”

Patricia Wright is also the founder of the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments and Centre ValVio, a research facility, not to mention the “discoverer” of the golden bamboo lemur, which she came across in 1986 during her studies about logging destroying the animals’ natural habitat. That concern later led to the creation of the 160 square mile Ranomafana National Park on the island nation.

“She is doing wonderful science and is actually achieving victories,” stated Indianapolis Zoological Society President and CEO Michael Crowther. “She is doing so by effectively integrating humans into the equation by encouraging the impoverished people living in villages surrounding the park to participate in the conservation effort.”

Wright said she plans to donate a portion of her prize money to support the protection of a part of lemur habitat just north of Ranomafana now being threatened by gold miners, while the rest will be used to bring electricity to the local villages there.

Note: Patricia Wright was one of three Stony Brook professors nominated for the Indianapolis Prize this year. The other two were Carl Safina, who founded the University’s Blue Ocean Institute, which conducts research on how the ocean is changing and what impact those changes have on wildlife and people; and Russel A. Mittermeier, who has employed the concept of biodiversity “hot spots” to help raise more than $1 billion for “critical habitats.”