José Márcio Ayres

Guardian of Amazonia

This book, which tells the story of José Márcio Corrêa Ayres’ life, carries with it a hope for Homo sapiens and the love of his dear mother Iza, his father, his brothers, his children and numerous friends who remember the person that he was and the herculean task which he took on at the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve in Amazonas State, Brazil.

We know this hope exists because of the continual spread of environmental conservation. There are, however, contradictions in plans laid by those representing powerful nations (such as hose recently put in place in Copenhagen), mostly aimed toward global warming but whose results leave much to be desired. Heads of state debate at length, free of political, economic and ethnic agendas, suggest models for immediate basic actions and on the medium term, sign agreements and meet for the classic friendly cup of coffee. But effective changes for protecting the planet get pushed back to the next meeting, the next talk, the next friendly cup of coffee…

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But we all continue to carry the hope that nature will someday be protected, lways concerned with the future of humanity as it faces losses of planetary resources and especially with future generations’ ability toenjoy the beautiful landscapes, the monkeys, the rosewood, beautiful flowers, fruit, nut trees, blue butterflies, the fine things in life, fresh river water, comfortable temperatures, the song of nightingales, love and the other splendors with which we are graced. The pioneering sustainable development model for biodiversity developed by José Márcio Ayres together with eminent scientists, inhabitants of the Tefé region and the Amazonas State Government beginning when he was just 25 years old was the first of its type and has received greater recognition outside Brazil than at home. It is noteworthy, for example, that ecotourism at the Mairauá reserve mostly comprises visitors from abroad, including Bill Gates. The reserve has also received visits from former President of Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Luiz Cláudio Marigo
Luiz Cláudio Marigo
Luiz Cláudio Marigo


    I recall having sent copies of the excellent book on Mamirauá written by poet and author Thiago de Melo to some Brazilian legislators but unfortunately did not have any feedback as to its receipt. The work done by José Márcio and, clearly, those who joined in his hope, has enchanted those who agreed with his ideals. In the Missiones region of Argentina, a sustainable development model similar to that at Mamirauá has been established and named Reserva José Márcio Ayres. And we must not forget the many awards received by José Márcio for his work, including the 1995 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) award in Buenos Aires, and the Rolex Award in Tokyo in 2002. In 2008, I visited New York and went to see Dr. James Holland at Mount Sinai Hospital, the doctor who treated José Márcio’s illness. My son had passed away five years earlier in 2003, but his doctor’s first question to me was, “And has your son’s work at Mamirauá been carried on?” The love and sentiment of his family members, both older and younger than him as well as friends from across the globe are evident in the numerous messages throughout this book.

    I must especially mention my dear wife Iza, who insisted on publishing this book on the perseverance of José Márcio’s ideals about the conservation of biodiversity. Iza’s tenacity is evident in the way she kept files of his many outstanding works, publications, interviews and tributes but also of small details of his life—a sign of her loving admiration of Marcio’s work. We would at times speak of this inquietude of hers which only now, beyond the physical realm, must be bringing her much happiness. One of the things I would like to say is that we were of the tranquil opinion, with the certain vanity of proud parents, that José Márcio deserved to have won a Nobel Prize for Biodiversity Conservation.

    His work, and what he believed in, applies to all places on the Earth, all people, political regimes, ethnicities, religions, personal income and economies, weapons which could lead to violent conflict between nations and completely destroy the natural world we live in, transforming us into future homosaurs, result of the impact from a meteor called Homo sapiens… So congratulations to Iza, that extraordinary and exceptional person who gave life to this book. It became a reality thanks to the invaluable collaborative efforts of journalist Rose Silveira and Professor Ana Rita Pereira Alves, José Márcio’s caring and devoted niece and current director of the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve. As I stated above, José Márcio was much loved by those around him and I often recall these wise words: “Those we love never die, they just move on before we do.”

    I can’t help but also remember the words José Márcio spoke before he died, which show how he loved others: “We will only be able to reduce poverty in the Amazon if we canreduce migration from rural areas to the large cities. In order to keep people in the countryside, we not only have to provide schools, public sanitation and medical infrastructure, we have to manage natural resources in a sustainable manner, based on a solid scientific foundation so the structure of ecosystems can be maintained through the conservation of ecological and evolutionary processes.”

    By Manuel Ayres


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