Scientist Brings Love Of Lemurs To Aquarium In Norwalk

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Patricia Wright is the subject of the IMAX film "Island of Lemurs: Madagascar," which is playing at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk.
Patricia Wright is the subject of the IMAX film "Island of Lemurs: Madagascar," which is playing at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue

NORWALK, Conn. -- The subject of a popular IMAX movie playing at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk stopped by the aquarium to talk about her study of lemurs and her efforts to save the rain forests of Madagascar.

The IMAX documentary "Island of Lemurs: Madagascar" tells the story of primatologist and conservationist Patricia Wright and her work of studying lemurs. The movie is narrated by Morgan Freeman and takes viewers through Wright's beginnings as a social worker in New York to her establishment of the Ranomafana National Park and the Centre ValBio research center in Madagascar. It also features footage of many different species of wild lemurs, including the Greater Bamboo Lemur, which Wright rediscovered in 1986 after it had been thought extinct.

Wright said she loves lemurs because they are playful, and because each species is unique. She said she hopes the film educates people about lemurs and inspires others to study and save them.

"I want people to know about lemurs and all the different kinds, and I hope that they find their way into everyone's hearts because they really are extraordinary," she said.

Wright's study of lemurs began one day when she was living in New York and stopped in at a pet store on her way to a Jimi Hendrix concert.

"When I walked into that store, I absolutely fell in love with a monkey," Wright said. She bought the monkey and took it home. Her curiosity about her new pet led her to go back to school and get her doctorate. She later traveled to Madagascar, where she began a 27-year study of lemurs in their natural habitat.

When she arrived in Madagascar, she discovered that deforestation has pushed lemurs to the brink of extinction. This led her to begin working in conservation to save the lemurs' environment and to the establish the national park, which opened in 1991.

"What choice did I have? These animals were going to go extinct or I was going to make it happen," she said.

Wright is a professor at Stony Brook College on Long Island and still travels frequently to Madagascar. She said she spends about half her time studying the lemurs, and the other half continuing conservation work to protect them.

"The biggest challenge is educating people about how special lemurs are, and that they can only be found in Madagascar," she said. Since arriving in Madagascar, Wright and her team have discovered many new species of lemur, and she said she believes there are more out there waiting to be discovered.

"Island of Lemurs" will be playing at the IMAX theater at the Maritime Aquarium through May 20. Check the schedule at the aquarium website

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