Russell Mittermeier

Russell Alan Mittermeier
Born (1949-11-08) November 8, 1949
Bronx, New York, United States
Nationality American
Fields Anthropology
Institutions Conservation International
Alma mater Dartmouth College
Known for Biological Diversity and Ecosystem Conservation

Russell Alan Mittermeier (born November 8, 1949) is a primatologist and herpetologist. He has written several books for both popular and scientist audiences, and has authored some 300 scientific papers.


Russell A. Mittermeier is Executive Vice-Chair of Conservation International, and served as President of Conservation International from 1989 to 2014. Named a “hero for the planet” by TIME Magazine, Mittermeier is regarded as a world leader in the fields of primatology, biodiversity and tropical forest conservation. Trained as a primatologist and herpetologist, he has traveled widely in more than 160 countries on seven continents, and has conducted field work in more than 30 over the past 45 years – with much of his field work having focused on Amazonia (particularly Brazil, and Suriname ), the Atlantic forest region of Brazil, and Madagascar.[1]

Since 1977, Mittermeier has served as Chairman of the IUCN-World Conservation Union Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group, and he has been a member of the Steering Committee of the Species Survival Commission since 1982. Prior to working for Conservation International, he spent 11 years at World Wildlife Fund – U.S. (1978-1989), starting as Director of their Primate Program and ending up as Vice-President for Science. He also served as an IUCN-World Conservation Union Regional Councillor for the period 2004-2012, was elected as one of IUCN-World Conservation Union ’s four Vice-Presidents for the period 2009-2012, and then was elected a lifetime Honorary IUCN-World Conservation Union Member in 2012. He also chaired the first World Bank Task Force on Biodiversity in 1988, which was instrumental in introducing the term "biodiversity" to that institution. In addition, he has been an Adjunct Professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook since 1978 (and received an Honorary Doctorate there in 2007), a Research Associate at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University for more than two decades, and President of the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation since 1996. Most recently, he was instrumental in the creation of the 25 million Euro Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, a new species-focused fund based in Abu Dhabi, and serves as a member of its Advisory Committee.

In the late 1970s Mittermeier undertook one of the first studies of the critically endangered northern muriqui woolly spider monkeys in what would become the Caratinga Biological Station.[2] Mittermeier has been particularly interested in the discovery and description of species new to science. He has described a total of 14 new species (three turtles, four lemurs, an African monkey, and six Amazonian monkeys) and has eight species named in his honor (three frogs, a lizard, two lemurs, a monkey, and an ant). The most recent of these is Mittermeier’s saki, Pithecia mittermeieri, a monkey from the Brazilian Amazon.

Mittermeier has also been a leader in promoting species-focused ecotourism, particularly primate-watching and primate life-listing, and more recently turtle-watching and turtle life-listing, following the very successful model of the bird-watching community. To facilitate this, he launched a Tropical Field Guide Series and a Pocket Guide Series focused heavily on primates, but including a number of other species groups as well. The most recent publications to emerge in The Tropical Field Guide Series are Lemurs of Madagascar, Third Edition (2010) and Primates of West Africa (2011) with a French edition of the Lemurs of Madagascar having appeared in 2014. His own primate life-list, now totaling more than 350 species, is almost certainly the largest in the world and serves as a baseline for other primate life-listers.

Mittermeier was born in New York City. He received his B.A.(summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) from Dartmouth college and Ph.D. from Harvard University in biological anthropology for a thesis entitled, “Distribution, Synecology, and Conservation of Suriname Monkeys”in 1977.

Awards and honors

Mittermeier has received many awards, including:

Selected bibliography

Russell Mittermeier's output includes 36 books and more than 700 scientific and popular articles. Among his books are The Trilogy Megadiversity (1997), Hotspots (2000) and Wilderness Areas (2002), Wildlife Spectacles (2003), Hotspots Revisited (2004), Transboundary Conservation (2005), Lemurs of Madagascar (1994; 2006; 2010), Pantanal: South America’s Wetland Jewel (2005), A Climate for Life (2008), The Wealth of Nature: Ecosystems, Biodiversity and Human Well-Being (2009), Freshwater: The Essence of Life (2010), Oceans: Heart of our Blue Planet (2011) and The Handbook of the Mammals of the World (Vol. 3 Primates) (2013).


  1. Mittermeier, Russell A., & Cheney, Dorothy L. (1987), "Conservation of Primates and Their Habitats", in Smuts, B.B., Cheney, D.L., Seyfarth, R.M., Wrangham, R.W., Struhsaker, T.T. (eds), Primate Societies, Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, pp. 477–490., ISBN 0-226-76715-9
  2. Ramiro Abdala Passos, History, Preserve Muriqui, retrieved 2016-05-09

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