Duke’s 233 lemurs may be easier to reach, depending on the success of a student petition.
Two months into her freshman year, Audra Bass is circulating a petition directed at Duke Parking and Transportation, asking for more transportation options to the Duke Lemur Center. The center is the world’s largest sanctuary for rare and endangered prosimian primates and is home to the largest population of lemurs outside of Madagascar. Currently, a van drives students to a primate field biology class at the center on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Although other students are allowed to use this van, service is limited to those class times, Leslie Digby, director of undergraduate studies in evolutionary anthropology, wrote in an email Wednesday.
“The Duke Lemur Center is a wonderful, important facility that many students want to see but can’t,” Bass, who works at the center, said. “I want to work with the University to provide free transportation.”
Bass’ petition includes suggestions like extending the H-5 bus or the Robertson bus routes upon request, either by calling ahead or requesting the stop upon boarding the bus. Both buses come very close to the center, Bass said.
On Monday mornings at about 7:30 a.m., Bass bikes to the center where she trains lemurs and observes the behavior of aye-ayes, of which there has been little previous research. On Wednesdays, she gets a ride from another student who has a car.
Digby, who teaches at the center, discourages students from biking there. In the past, students have arrived at the center shaking from nerves after narrowly avoiding a car, Digby said. The route includes a long stretch of Erwin Road and cuts across the ramp to U.S. Route 15-501.
Gregory Dye, operations manager of the Lemur Center, said this transportation would come at a good time, noting that Bass’ effort marks the first time a student has requested Duke transportation to the center.
Dye added that there have been many additional opportunities for students to volunteer and intern at the center. Twenty freshman were interested in volunteering at the Center this year, but many were unable to do so because they lacked transportation, Dye said.
Sam Veraldi, director of parking and transportation services, has yet to receive the petition. He said the needs of other students will be researched to see if Bass’ proposal is a good business decision given the transportation department’s limited resources and union requirements. He noted that in the past, there was a bus to the center, but it was long before he assumed his position two years ago.
Bass currently has more than 200 signatures on her own copy of the petition, and additional signatures—she said she does not know how many—on the four other petitions she gave out.
Dye said he is supportive of Bass’ efforts, noting that he wants the center to gain prominence on campus.
“Ultimately, the transportation provided would be a huge win for the University as a whole,” he said.