José Márcio Corrêa Ayres, a Brazilian zoologist who has been widely credited with saving the world's largest swath of protected rain forest, died March 7 in New York City. Ayres, who was 49, died of lung cancer.

At the time of his death, Ayres served as senior conservation biologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, the global agency based at New York City's Bronx Zoo. But his most noted accomplishments were in Brazil, near the confluence of the Solimões (Amazon) and Japourá Rivers.

This was not far from the site where Ayres began his serious education into the biological diversity of the Amazon. As a young man, he had seen a white uakari monkey from the upper Amazon at a German zoo. He returned home to Brazil, embarrassed that he had never seen the animal in his home country and determined to learn more about his native environment. He bought...

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