Jacob Bullock gives away birthday to adopt Lemur at Duke University

It’s not every day that a third-grader, now a rising fourth-grader, gives away his birthday, let alone adopts an endangered animal across the country. Yet that’s exactly what St. Andrew’s Episcopal School student Jacob Bullock has done for the past year.

Through his interest in lemurs and environmental conservation, Bullock has been collecting cans at St. Andrew’s lower school in order to “adopt” a lemur at the Duke Lemur Center (DLC) at Duke University, a non-invasive research center founded in the 1960s.

Jacob first developed an interest in lemurs from the Wild Kratts children’s television show. Through the show, he learned about the 80 different species of lemurs and that they are critically endangered. After Jacob and his family moved to Jackson from North Carolina in 2012, his best friend sent him a postcard from the DLC and suggested a visit on an upcoming trip to North Carolina. Spring break of 2018 they made the journey to the DLC, where Jacob met one of the volunteers, Laura Durlacher.

“Laura and Jacob are kindred spirits in their passion for the natural world, their concern about the destruction that has occurred to both plant and animal life in our world, and the need to protect it,” said Heather Bullock, Jacob’s mother. “Jacob told Laura that he was planning to use his birthday money to adopt a lemur while we were there as a way to help. Laura told him about a recycling project she set up when she was a young girl living in Ohio in order to adopt a lemur from the DLC.

Jacob thought that was a fantastic idea and that it would be a great way to educate his classmates and school about the most endangered primate in the world, as well as help our local environment and habitat in Mississippi by recycling cans.”

After returning from spring break, he proposed the recycling project to the Reverend Annie Elliott, lower school chaplain, and Kathy Vial, lower school science teacher, and it was approved for the 2018-19 school year. Jacob established a recycling center at the lower school where each week – sometimes twice a week – he would collect donated cans. Between August 2018 and March 2019 lower school students collected more than 11,000 cans.

Jacob contributed some of his birthday money to ultimately reach their $100 goal and presented it to DLC in March. Specifically, the donation was given to Mary Paisley and Charlie Welch, DLC’s conversation coordinator. Charlie happens to be a native of Jackson who volunteered at the Jackson Zoo as a high schooler, leading him to Duke, followed by 15 years in Madagascar working with lemurs, and ultimately back to DLC.

“We are always pleased to see young people become so engaged in helping us to protect and care for lemurs,” Welch said. “One of our objectives is environmental education, and we hope to inspire youth to think about protecting not just lemurs and the wildlife of Madagascar, but also to act locally and globally on issues of all sorts that impact and threaten our ever-shrinking natural world.”

The students’ determination to help Jacob and the DLC helped them adopt an aye-aye lemur named Grendel for two years. During the two years, the DLC will send quarterly reports on Grendel to Vial so she can update the students.

“Jacob’s goal was to get his classmates interested and invested in the future of lemurs and, therefore, hopefully other endangered species,” Heather said. “Jacob knows that personal interest and investment is the only way to stop the senseless trend of eliminating the world’s plants and animals.”

Jacob’s involvement in wildlife conservation extends beyond helping lemurs. In the summer of 2018, he participated in a leatherback sea turtle hatching, study, and release at Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge in Frederiksted, St. Croix, USVI and volunteered at the St. Croix Animal Welfare Shelter in Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI.

At home, he gave his time to the Mississippi Animal Rescue League (MARL) after he rescued an abandoned kitten from a drainage pipe in Flowood with the help of the city’s roads department.

As for what’s next, Jacob plans to continue to support animals, especially Grendel. The school’s adoption period will end after two years, but he hopes to donate his birthday money each year to continue Grendel’s adoption.

“I knew my classmates and I could meet the recycling goal in order to adopt a lemur from the Duke Lemur Center,” Jacob said. “I’m really proud of what we were able to accomplish together. It is only by everyone working together that we will be able to save the world’s endangered species. My goal is to continue to educate people on endangered species and to grow up to work in a profession that can aid endangered species…like maybe an exotic large animal veterinarian.”

Jacob Bullock 2: Marie Paisley, Jacob Bullock, and Charles Welch at the Duke Lemur Center where Jacob received the adoption certificate on behalf of the St. Andrew’s students.

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