2023 Small Outlet - Silver

Researchers are racing against the destruction of the Amazon to ensure the survival of the Mato Grosso titi monkey, one of the world's most endangered primates, Duda Menegassi told her readers. In the municipality of Alta Floresta, where the new species was discovered, the deforestation rate increased more than tenfold between 2012 and 2022. Menegassi accompanied a research team deep into the rainforest for on-the-ground reporting about a single pair of monkeys isolated in one patch of forest surrounded by farmland. Their location unfortunately overlaps with the most dangerous region of the Amazon for a primate: the Arc of Deforestation. Together with the expansion of agriculture and livestock farming come the expansion of the road networks, urban development, and the construction of hydroelectric plants, which also compete for space and affect the Mato grosso titi monkey’s habitat. “Even if it wasn’t always possible to see them clearly, it was impossible not to hear them when they vocalized,” Menegassi wrote. The singing is a way of defending territory, “a way of showing us that their house has an owner.” To protect the monkeys, Menegassi found, it is essential to curb deforestation in northern Mato Grosso, and to carry out forest restoration to reconnect isolated fragments. “It’s difficult to compete with the economic force of destruction, but the ecotourism industry can provide alternatives while protecting the forest for future options like the carbon market,” Menegassi concluded. Judge Claudia Wallis said that Menegassi, the first AAAS Kavli winner from Brazil, “gives us a fresh and compelling angle on the more familiar tale of Amazon destruction. Against the background of the larger political, economic and climatic forces at work, she presents unforgettable, on-the-ground reporting about a single pair of monkeys isolated in one farmer’s ‘backyard.’” Menegassi said Brazil “is the country with the greatest diversity of primates in the world, but all this biodiversity is threatened, mostly by deforestation. We need to acknowledge and address this problem, and science reporting has a very important role in this mission.”