S2 E22: Patricia Wright


Charles and Jon meet conservation legend and primatologist Patricia Wright.

Dr Wright is most famous for her work in Madagascar, including her discovery of the Golden Bamboo Lemur. She is Founder and Executive Director of Stony Brook University Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments, and Founder and Executive Director of the Centre ValBio, a research and training center in Ranomafana, Madagascar. Some of her many achievements during a very distinguished career include being the first woman to win the Indianapolis Prize (the ‘Nobel Prize for Conservation’), won a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship (Genius Award) and had three medals of honor from the Malagasy government.

During a fascinating chat we learn how a chance encounter with a night (owl) monkey in a Brooklyn pet store changed the course of Patricia’s life from New York social worker to primatologist. She describes the thrill of discovering a new species – the Golden Bamboo Lemur – in 1986, and the daunting challenge of trying to establish its habitat as a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Ranomafana National Park.

Patricia explains why she feels it is so important to get local people involved in conservation: the ‘jigsaw puzzle’ of an integrated approach. And how the community in Ranomafana were ready to support its protection in exchange for better access to health care, education and … soccer balls!


Patricia Wright has published over 200 scientific papers, authored four books and has given hundreds of lectures around the world. Her work has been featured by the media many times, including in the award winning documentary “Island of Lemurs: Madagascar” narrated by Morgan Freeman; David Attenborough’s Life of Mammals; and Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.

There are some great trip reports from Madagascar up on mammalwatching.com. The island is, in our opinion, one of the world’s great mammalwatching destinations.

Cover Art: Patricia Wright and Coquerel’s Sifakas. Photo by Noel Rowe.