The Indianapolis Prize – the world’s leading award for animal conservation – and 1,300 attendees celebrated the world’s most successful animal conservationists on Saturday at the Indianapolis Prize Gala presented by Cummins Inc.
Dr. Russell A. Mittermeier, the 2018 recipient and seventh winner of the Prize, which is awarded biennially by the Indianapolis Zoological Society, received the Lilly Medal and $250,000 — the largest unrestricted monetary award given exclusively for the successful conservation of endangered or threatened species. Actor and environmentalist Harrison Ford received the 2018 Jane Alexander Global Wildlife Ambassador Award.
“Today, we celebrate the achievements of heroes who work on the frontlines of animal conservation,” said Michael I. Crowther, chief executive officer of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc. “These conservationists are not just trying to save species, but are actually succeeding and bringing about real change. Thanks to them, we now know what we need to do to repair and reinforce Earth’s tapestry of life.”
Mittermeier, Chief Conservation Officer for Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC), has been responsible for the preservation of hundreds of species and millions of acres of critical habitat around the world. He is best known for his leadership in championing the concept of Biodiversity Hotspots — critical areas known for their biological diversity, endemic species and severe level of threat.
Considered the world’s preeminent primate conservationist, Mittermeier is also instrumental in conservation focused on reptiles, particularly tortoises and freshwater turtles. He’s been involved in the description of more than 20 species new to science — including three turtles, seven lemurs, four tarsiers and seven monkeys — and he even has eight species named after him by colleagues (three frogs, one lizard, two lemurs, a saki monkey and an ant).
“I am honored to be the 2018 Winner and applaud the Indianapolis Prize for giving a larger platform to conservationists doing important, significant work,” said Mittermeier. “It’s my hope that more people will be inspired by my colleagues’ heroic stories and be moved to take actions that save species around the world.”
Mittermeier was selected from a pool of six esteemed Finalists by a Jury comprised of distinguished scientists and conservation leaders. The Finalists are: Dr. Joel Berger (Colorado State University and Wildlife Conservation Society); Dr. P. Dee Boersma (University of Washington and Center for Ecosystem Sentinels); Dr. Sylvia Earle (Mission Blue and Deep Ocean Exploration and Research); Dr. Rodney Jackson (Snow Leopard Conservancy); and Dr. Carl Safina (The Safina Center at Stony Brook University). Each Finalist received $10,000.
At the Gala, Ford was honored with the Jane Alexander Global Wildlife Ambassador Award for his bold, heroic devotion to planet Earth. Ford is an Honorary Chair of the Indianapolis Prize and has been part of Conservation International for more than 25 years, where he is vice chair and active in the organization’s design and growth.
“I’m honored to be recognized alongside some of the greatest in wildlife conservation today and commend the Indianapolis Prize for its commitment to advancing the sustainability of species,” Ford said. “Nothing is more important to human society than preserving its natural capital. Nature does not need people, people need nature.”
In honor of the 2018 Indianapolis Prize Gala, Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb declared Sept. 24-30 Wildlife Conservation Week, and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett declared Sept. 29-30 Indianapolis Prize Weekend. During Wildlife Conservation Week, which culminated in the Indianapolis Prize Gala, conservation heroes from all over the world converged in Indianapolis for free public lectures, meet-and-greet opportunities and more.
“Because of heroes like the Indianapolis Prize Finalists, dozens of species still live on Earth today,” said Governor Eric Holcomb. “Our state celebrates Wildlife Conservation Week in honor of these conservation heroes and I hope my fellow Hoosiers are inspired by their greatness.”
“Indianapolis is recognized internationally as the emerging conservation capital of the world,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett. “I challenge everyone in our community to engage with the Indianapolis Zoo, as they help to advance animal conservation not only in our city, but around the world.”
Gala guests received the second edition of Champions for Our Planet: the Indianapolis Prize Guide to Animal Conservation Giving. The guide spotlights 19 organizations backed by the conservation heroes of the Indianapolis Prize and serves as an expert roadmap for giving meaningful gifts that protect, preserve and sustain endangered species and ecosystems. In selecting one of the conservation charities highlighted in Champions for Our Planet, donors directly contribute to efforts to protect species including polar bears, African elephants, lemurs, jaguars, penguins, whooping cranes, muskox, snow leopards, lions, wolves, Mauritius kestrels, tigers, cheetahs, ocean animals, reptiles and more.
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