By Grayson Pellerito. Published April 11, 2023.

My Journey to Madagascar

Intern Grayson stands in front of a nocturnal aye-aye in a dark room.

Grayson’s first summer at the Duke Lemur Center as an animal welfare intern in 2019. Now, after four years as a Primate Technician, Grayson is entering a new role working in Durham and in Toamasina, Madagascar. Photo by David Haring.

I’ve been working at the Duke Lemur Center for almost four years as a Primate Technician, and now I’m entering a new role as a Conservation Technician! I have never known exactly where my career was headed, but I have always had a feeling I was going to make it to Madagascar. On June 17, that feeling becomes a reality. I’ll be traveling to work with Malagasy keepers at Parc Zoologique Ivoloina, a 700-acre conservation center and zoo near Toamasina on Madagascar’s eastern coast.

Entrance map to Parc Ivoloina, a 700-acre conservation center and zoo near Toamasina, Madagascar.

Parc Ivoloina is supported by the Madagascar Flora and Fauna Group (MFG), a consortium of zoos and other institutions committed to supporting conservation in Madagascar. The DLC has been a founding and managing member of the MFG since it was formed in 1988, and DLC conservationists Andrea Katz and Charlie Welch helped found Parc Ivoloina as it is known today.

A critically endangered greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus) reaches for a stalk of bamboo inside his enclosure at Park Ivoloina. Photo by Sara Sorraia.

How You Can Help

My trip in June will be the first of many, each lasting three months at a time. While in Madagascar, it is my mission to help Parc Ivoloina care for its lemurs and to take on different challenges in partnership with their amazing team, improving and collaborating on best practices based off the protocols established here at the Duke Lemur Center. With determination, hard work, and immense positivity, I know that incredible success will come out of this collaboration.

Grayson standing with browse

Collecting browse for animal enrichment as a full-time Primate Technician in 2023. Photo by Alanna Marron.

My plan is not just to help the facility, but also the community. I would love to make an impact on both the animals and the people, so I’ve created an Amazon wishlist with items like mosquito nets, kids’ soccer balls, and thermometers in addition to products needed for animal care. 

Images of items from Grayson's wishlist, including binoculars, headlamps, a thermometer, needle nose pliers, powdered peanut butter, and soccer balls

An example of the variety of items I plan to bring to Madagascar. Check out my wishlist to hear how I intend to use each item donated!

I would be so appreciative of any support the DLC can receive from the Amazon wishlist! These products can be extremely difficult (or impossible) to find in Madagascar, and your support via the wishlist will allow us to bring as many resources as we can to Parc Ivoloina and the surrounding community.

An infant blue-eyed black lemur clings to her mother, while her mother sits on a wooden platform and eats an orange vegetable.

Critically endangered mother and infant blue-eyed black lemurs (Eulemur flavifrons) at Parc Ivoloina. Photo by Sara Sorraia.

“Excited” doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about this journey ahead. I look forward to giving updates on how incredible this experience is going to be!

Visit Grayson’s Wishlist and help contribute to her journey!

Tax info

Note that items purchased through the DLC’s amazon wishlist are “gifts in kind” and are not considered direct monetary donations to the Duke Lemur Center. If you have any questions about the tax-deductible nature of your gift and paperwork requirements, please consult your tax advisor. If you wish to receive an official letter of acknowledgement, please send a request outlining the donation with copies of the receipts to: Donated Items Acknowledgement / Duke Lemur Center / 3705 Erwin Road / Durham, NC 27705. This request must be made during the calendar year of purchase. Thanks so much for your support!