Friday, June 22, 2007

Dutch Monkey Researcher Jailed In Brazil

biologist Marc van Roosmalen monkeyDutch biologist Marc van Roosmalen faces 14 years in a Brazilian prison. He has been convicted of failing to apply for a licence for the monkey refuge at his home in the Amazon region of Brazil. Mr Van Roosmalen, hailed in 2000 as a "hero for the planet", is appealing against the sentence.

Monkey researcher Marc van Roosmalen, sentenced to 14 years in prison, seems on the face of it to be a victim of bureaucracy. The primatologist has been living and working for years in the Amazon. He has even discovered several new species of monkey, one of which reminded him of Prince Bernhard. He named it "Callicebus Bernhardi" and five years ago he visited Soestdijk Palace to inform the prince in person.

In 2002, in a Dutch television programme, Mr Van Roosmalen explained the original methods he had devised to be able to rescue and study monkeys. Anyone who wanted could give their name to one of the monkeys in his refuge - in exchange for a financial contribution.

Meanwhile, he was expanding his activities. He no longer merely hunted for new species of plants and animals, but increasingly turned his attention to the protection of the Brazilian rainforest.

It is his campaigning activities and his enthusiasm that have been his undoing, says David van Gennip, director of the AAP Foundation, an animal refuge in Almere: he was "a pain in the ass" particularly for logging and soybean companies with major interests in the Brazilian rainforest.

Bert de Boer, director of Apenheul, a zoo and conservation organisation in Apeldoorn, describes Mr Van Roosmalen as "A great conservationist, and passionate with it. These are both things you have to be very cautious about in Brazil." He suspects that the big companies have bribed the government to act against the vociferous biologist.

It was easy to find a reason to take legal action against Van Roosmalen. He was accused of failing to apply for a permit for the monkey refuge at his home. This meant that the 28 orphaned monkeys he was keeping there were technically stolen. He was accused of monkey theft and biopiracy and sentenced to 14 years in prison. He is appealing against the sentence.

The 60-year-old biologist, hailed by Time Magazine in 2000 as a "hero for the planet", is now behind bars in Brazil.

Story here.

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1 comment:

Mason Fischer said...

Journalists and the media should pick up this story. This is truly a travesty of justice and a story that needs to be told.

Marc's plight is in keeping with the likes of Chico Mendes and others who have fought to save the Brazilian Amazon from politicians, developers and destruction. On top of that he is one of the most accomplished field biologists of our time, a modern-day Alexander von Humboldt who discovered numerous species new to science.

Marc has done a tremendous service to Brazil in educating the world about Brazil's natural heritage, and now he's in a prison in Manaus for sheltering orphaned primates?! Who knows what wealth of knowledge about the Amazon and new discoveries will be lost without him. Perhaps that's what his enemies want.

The Brazilian government should be proud of Marc and his accomplishments, not imprison him. If he perishes in a prison in Brazil it will be an international tragedy, one for the history books. Free Marc van Roosmalen!