Born in the Netherlands in 1947, Marc van Roosmalen is a Brazilian primatologist of Dutch birth living in Manaus, Brazil. After studying biology at the University of Amsterdam he did four years of doctoral fieldwork in Suriname studying the Red-faced Spider Monkey. Since then, van Roosmalen has devoted his life to the scientific exploration of the South American flora and fauna.

Marc van Roosmalen is described as a hand-on naturalist and has spent long periods of time doing research work in the Amazonian rainforest, while simultaneously producing prolific amounts of scientific papers, books, reviews, and wildlife documentaries. His work has led to the discovery and description of several new species, such as Callibella humilis, the dwarf marmoset, the second smallest monkey in the world, and Lecythis oldemani, a tree belonging to the Brazil Nut family. From 1986 to 2003, van Roosmalen served as senior scientist at the National Institute for Amazonian Research (INPA) under the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology.

Parallel to his research work, van Roosmalen is a dedicated conservationalist trying to protect the Brazilian rainforest from destruction by humans. During the late 1980s, he launched “The Center for the Rehabilitation and Re-introduction of Endangered Wildlife” in the federal Rio Cuieiras Nature Reserve; a centre where all kinds of animals, but especially monkeys confiscated from the illegal pet trade, were rehabilitated in the local rain forest. In 1999, he founded the NGO “Amazon Association for the Preservation of High Biodiversity Areas” (AAPA) and began purchasing areas of pristine rainforest in regions harboring extremely high biodiversity and/or animals and plants new to science.

For his outstanding work in South America, van Roosmalen has received several honors and was knighted as Officer in the Order of the Golden Ark by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands in 1997. At the turn of the millennium, van Roosmalen was selected as one of the worldwide recognized “Heroes for the Planet” by Time Magazine.

You can read about van Roosmalen’s current predicament in our interview with him which is found here. More information can also be found in this Wired article and this article published by the Smithsonian institution.

“For if there are out there big tree-dwelling, ground-dwelling and even aquatic mammals not known to science – a dwarf tapir, a giant peccary, a white deer, a dwarf manatee, another river dolphin, to name a few – what do we really know about its flora and fauna? Very Little. About its ecology – the utterly complex web of relationships between plants and animals? Even less. Then what do we know about the sustainability of this ecosystem? Absolutely nothing.”

- Marc van Roosmalen