As a long-standing friend and colleague of Devra Kleiman, I greatly value this opportunity to acknowledge a personal debt for her inspiration, guidance, support and friendship. It is no exaggeration to say that since our first meeting in London over four decades ago, Devra's example and philosophy exerted a major and extensive influence on my own interest in primatology.
Devra Kleiman was a pioneer in conservation biology and following the news of her death at the age of 67, Dietz (2010a) wrote ‘Throughout her 40-year career, Devra Kleiman used innovative scientific approaches to address conservation issues and consistently modeled the collaborative processes that are critical for effective actions’.
Devra graduated in 1964 with a BS in Biopsychology from the University of Chicago, IL, USA, and received her PhD in Zoology in 1969 from the University of London, UK, having worked with Dr Desmond Morris at the Zoological Society of London. From 1969 to 1971 she served as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Rutgers University, NJ, USA, before taking up the position of Reproductive Scientist at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Washington, DC, USA, in 1972. In 1979 she became head of the National Zoo's Zoological Research, and in 1986 was appointed the Zoo's Assistant Research Director, continuing in that position until her retirement in 2001.
Devra's interests and expertise were in ‘mammalian reproduction and behavior, zoo biology, conservation biology (specifically endangered species recovery and reintroduction), organization development and institutional strategic planning and program evaluation’ (Dietz, 2010b). During her career Devra wrote more than 150 scientific and popular publications, lectured widely, and was editor or co-editor of more than eight books and symposium volumes, including the much referenced Wild Mammals in Captivity (Kleiman et al.,1996) and Lion Tamarins: Biology and Conservation (Kleiman & Rylands, 2002). Her enthusiasm for any conservation programmes that she embarked upon was contagious to all associated with them. Having worked with Devra since 1980 on all four international programmes concerning the conservation and management of lion tamarins (Leontopithecus spp) in Brazil, I recognize the significant role that she played in one of the great success stories of the global conservation movement. The scientifically coordinated partnership approach has greatly aided the preservation of one of the world's biodiversity ‘hotspots’ in Brazil's eastern coastal region of Mata Atlantica (Kleiman & Mallinson, 1998).
For many years Devra served on the International Zoo Yearbook Advisory Panel and the editorial advisory boards of various scientific journals. Between 1986 and 2001 she was on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust/Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, and visited the Trust's International Training Centre on several occasions, taking time to present a number of significant and well-received tutorials.
Lou Ann Dietz, a long-term colleague and close friend of Devra's, so well encapsulates her unique personality: ‘We will miss Devra's energetic, fearless systematic marching into new territory, both geographic and scientific, leading collaborators in pursuit of a conservation goal; her not-so-gentle prodding to “get things done”; her outspoken manner – telling us exactly what she thought; her boisterous laugh; her energy; her interest in our personal lives; her emails’ (Dietz, 2010b). These characteristics were constantly evident when, in October 2009, Devra invited me to join her and her husband Ian, along with some of her friends, on a trip to the Galapagos Islands. Devra's enthusiasm for every aspect of natural history she observed, and her considerable interest in the culture of the local people, illuminated everything with which she became associated. Her energy, humour and ebullient company, were an example to us all.
During Devra's professional career she received many scientifically based conservation awards. However, it was because of her keen interest in the welfare of the local communities in which she worked that the award she would probably have been the most proud of was the ‘Medal of Honor’ from the Municipal Council of Silva Jardim, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Silva Jardim is in the heart of Golden lion tamarin Leontopithecus rosalia habitat where the Poço das Antas Reserve is located. The award was presented posthumously to the Associação Mico-Leão Dourado on 8 May 2010, in recognition of Devra's ‘contribution of service to environmental conservation and to the education of the youth of Silva Jardim’ (Dietz, 2010a). Romulo Mello, President of the Brazilian Chico Mendes Institute for Conservation Biodiversity (ICMBio), recorded a fitting eulogy: ‘Devra was highly respected by managers and employees alike throughout ICMBio, by local communities in Brazil, also by scientists, educators, and conservationists around the world. She was regarded as a visionary leader by anyone who ever worked with her’ (Dietz, 2010b).
In her eulogy, Devra's stepdaughter Elise Forier Edie recalled some of the things Devra taught her: ‘don't take no for an answer. Ever … To her, “No” was a clarion call to action’; ‘a good conversation never suffers with the addition of some pungent and expressive expletives’; ‘you are never too old to learn something new’; ‘make sure you're leaving the world a better place’ (see http://www.savetheliontamarin.org/storage/Elise's%20devra%20memorial.pdf). There can be no doubt that Devra lived her life to the full and followed her own advice.
With Devra's untimely death, it is now the responsibility of all those who have had the privilege to know her, to have worked with her and to have been inspired by her knowledge and drive, to keep the flame of her conservation spirit alight, and to ensure that all those programmes in which she was involved continue to flourish and to go from strength to strength.