Roberto Siqueira Carneiro
Fellow Since 1989
Refúgio Ecológico Charles Darwin
This profile was prepared when Roberto Siqueira Carneiro was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1989.
The New Idea
Roberto, who combines a lifelong love of monkeys with a broad environmental commitment, is setting out to save a number of Brazil's endangered species of monkeys and their habitat. He will do so from na independent center he is creating in his home state of Pernambuco in Brazil's Northeast.Using new techniques he has developed, he will breed unusually strong monkeys at this center. He and his colleagues will be busy educating both the public and local residents about the monkeys and the forest.In order to increase reproduction among and the health of his monkeys, Roberto has introduced several innovations. One example is a feeding program involving live fish. The monkeys must "hunt" for the fish and compete for "hunting space" and for the catch. The competition has promoted stronger, healthier animals and increased reproduction rates very significantly. The Rio de Janeiro Zoo has recently adopted this practice from Roberto. He plans to continue this sort of practical research and experimentation into new ways of feeding the primates to ensure their emotional and physical well-being.This breeding work will eventually make Roberto's center self-sufficient. Along with rare "Golden Lion" tamarins, he is breeding and selling the common Muriqui monkeys for use in important health research. Besides providing working capital for his efforts at reintroducing the tamarins, this facet of Roberto's work will ensure that research teams rely less often on capturing tamarins from the wild. It is also an idea other environmental groups lacking secure financial support may emulate.Roberto's chief focus, however, is on saving endangered monkey species like the golden tamarin, as well as the natural habitats they need to prosper. He helps the monkeys multiply in his center and then helps reintroduce them into ecosystems that his educational work has made viable once again. His educational work seeks both to build general popular support (and pressure) and also to work more directly with local residents, the sugar companies and others who own the land, and others concerned directly with the areas where he is working.His general education work focuses on the remnants of the Atlantic rainforest, especially in the Northeast. He is in close touch with and helps other concerned groups, especially Sao Paulo's SOS Mata Atlantica, the chief defender of what's left of the forest along Brazil's southern coast. He and his colleagues are already the most vigorous defenders of the forest in the north.Roberto's work now focuses especially on two remaining islands of the Atlantic rainforest in Pernambuco, the Mata Corrego do Macaco and at Muriqui. He is pursuing several strategies at once.By reintroducing the golden tamarins after extensive local education and persuasion and engagement of the broader public, he focuses the public's attention on the issue.By working closely with local hunters, he hopes to help them distinguish endangered species from their common cousins.By engaging both the press and the public, he adds pressure to his persuasion.By helping build a coalition of concerned groups he hopes to spread both his education and the pressure.