Evolving Thoughts

Naturalised Brazilian, Dutch biologist Marc van Roosmalen, has been sentenced to 14 years jail in Brazil for running a monkey refuge without a permit from Ibama, the local environmental agency. Not that he didn’t apply, mark you, but Ibama didn’t respond, and the received local wisdom is that if they don’t within 45 days, it’s approved. Van Roosmalen was convicted because although this is indeed what happens, it’s not in the legislation.

This is egregious sucky. Brazil ought to be ashamed of itself.

Late note: See Marc’s own site for a background. This looks like, as I expected, corrupt politicians.

Later note:A supporters’ site, in Dutch is here.


  1. #1 Ian H Spedding FCD
    June 26, 2007

    On the face of it, such a sentence is absurdly severe given the nature of the offence. Perhaps there is more behind it involving local or national politics – or local or national egos.

  2. #2 John Wilkins
    June 26, 2007

    More likely a matter of not paying corrupt officials the requisite bribe.

  3. #3 Chris' Wills
    June 27, 2007

    I guess it might be the “showing up the nation”. As there are all these parentless monkeys it shows rather clearly that the Brazillian goverment is not fulfilling its own laws in protecting and preserving the forest nor the wildlife within it.

    I wonder if the Dutch embassy are doing anything or just turning a blind eye?

  4. #4 Wilfred
    June 27, 2007

    Well, he doesn’t have the dutch nationality anymore, so it’s difficult for the dutch embassy to do anything. Furthermore he had difficulty with rich/powerful people there who would rather plant soy than protect the amazonian rainforest.

  5. #5 Brazilian
    June 28, 2007

    As a brazilian, I am ashamed that stuff like that happens in my country.
    Mr. van Roosmalen was quite active in denouncing loggers in the Amazon. Those loggers are usually very agressive when it comes to defending themselves. There is quite a long list of people murdered by them. And they’ve got money, so it is quite easy for them to bribe people and force an arrest like that. I hope that with enough public pressure he will soon be released.

  6. #6 John Monfries
    July 2, 2007

    Every so often cases like this are mentioned on Scienceblogs, but without any suggestion as to what the loyal readers might actually do about it. A similar example was the case of the Bulgarian doctors and nurses on trial in Libya.

    If you really care about this outrageous case, [polite] letters to the Minister of Justice (or similar) of Brazil might be one way. If you feel it better to concert protest action rather than do it as an individual, another option would be to check the human rights websites and see what Amnesty or Human Rights Watch are doing – if they are running a campaign on the case, there might be more mileage in joining with them. Those websites also usually have very accurate details about such cases.

  7. #7 Shola Albin
    July 7, 2007

    Marc van Roosmalen, who has indeed discovered at least a dozen new species in Amazonia has been thrown in jail. The Brazillian goverment accused the world renowned biologist of stealing monkeys, orphans he rescued and provided shelter for in his home near Manaus, and has sentenced him to 14 years in prison. For Marc, who is 60 now, 14 years can be considered equivalent to life long. Moreover jails in Brazil can be very dangerous. Marc has already witnessed a fellow prisoner(who was also innocent) being beaten to death.
    Apart from his extra ordinary scientific accomplishments, Marc van Roosmalen has always been an uncompromising activist for the protection of the Amazone and that is probably what got him in jail.

    Marc van Roosmalen needs and deserves our support. Unfortunately the Dutch government is turning a blind eye, stating that Marc is now Brazilian and therefore not Dutch anymore.
    Please stay tuned and help spread the word. For the latest news and to declare your support, you can go to http://www.helpmarcvanroosmalen.com

    Thank you, Shola Albin and Martijn van Roosmalen

  8. #8 John Wilkins
    July 7, 2007

    That is a broken link, Shola. Please email me the right one and I’ll put it up in the main post.

  9. #9 chris wemmer
    July 7, 2007

    IBAMA could just as easily issued the permit post facto. Such actions happen every day in Brazil, but for the wrong reasons. Why not in this case for the right reason? This is about power politics and vested interests, and as usual, it stinks.

  10. #10 Shola
    July 8, 2007

    I’m sorry, the real website in support of Marc van Roosmalen is http://www.helpmarcvanroosmalen.nl
    Thank you, Shola

  11. #11 Yaron Mayer
    July 8, 2007

    This is crazy and sounds like severe corruption – seems like some people wanted to get rid of him.

    People and corporations destroy the rainforests at an insane rate, thus committing huge crimes against the planet and against humanity and go unpunished, and a biologist who helps animals is sentenced to jail???!!! The whole world should immediately start severe financial sanctions against Brazil until he is released and huge class action suits should start worldwide against the criminals who are destroying the rainforests.

  12. #12 Gisele
    July 9, 2007

    I’m a Brazilian, and I understand how it sound suspicious such an action towards a cientist, especially a foreign one. But in fact, this is not the first time Mr. van Roosmalen has problem with Brazilian law, and not only with IBAMA, but with INPA, the local (state) organism to which he worked for.

    I believe Mr. van Roosmalen had no intention to harm the Brazilian fauna (of course), but everyday we deal with two options in this country: to do something the right and harder way, or do something through the several easier and worng ways we are offered. When he expected to have “automatic permission” in 45 days, he wasn’t being a naive foreigner researcher, but was acting as we, typical Brazilians, do: we forget there’s a law.

  13. #13 Mason Fischer
    July 11, 2007

    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.

    Marc van Roosmalen’s story deserves to be told, and hopefully he can be saved.

  14. #14 Mason Fischer
    July 11, 2007

    In a perfect world the Brazilian government would free Marc and hire him as a consultant to establish a new Aripuana National Park, this is where Marc discovered several new species, and he feels the area had been overlooked by science and could protect even more unnamed species as well as numerous archaeological sites, perhaps some of the greatest biodiversity on Earth. Look to the Rio Madeira and the confluence of its branch the Rio Aripuana (Rio Roosevelt).

    Free Marc van Roosmalen, he is an adopted son of Brazil and the government should be proud of him 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.

  15. #15 primate
    July 18, 2007

    The supporters’ site has been updated in English and a petition added, for those interested.

  16. #16 Greco
    July 27, 2007

    The whole world should immediately start severe financial sanctions

    …against Europe, United States and China for continuing to drive the illegal trade in wildlife and timber.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.