About the Indianapolis Prize

The World's Leading Award for Animal Conservation

What is the Indianapolis Prize?

It began as a question: What can we do that will really make a difference to saving the lives of endangered and threatened animals all over the world? Financial support is important, but could we give more? What amount would make a real impact on the conservation of animals that are in danger of disappearing from the Earth forever? How do we make an impact on hearts and minds? Those questions led to the concept of the Indianapolis Prize, an initiative that would approach the issue of animal conservation in a whole new way. The Prize would combine significant financial support with programs that build emotional and intellectual support, one person at a time, over many years and several generations. It would combine a monetary award large enough to have a serious impact on an individual conservationist with programs that would inspire and educate the public about the true heroes of conservation and their dedication, and ultimately, their victories in the constant battle to save wildlife and wild places from extinction. The Indianapolis Prize awards $250,000 to an animal conservationist who has achieved major victories in advancing the sustainability of an animal species or group of species. The Prize also awards five DeHaan Finalists and an Emerging Conservationist with $50,000 each. Granted biennially, this award was established to bring the world’s attention to the cause of animal conservation and the brave, talented and dedicated men and women who spend their lives saving the Earth’s endangered animal species.

Influence in Indianapolis and Beyond

Recognized as the Nobel Prize for animal conservation, the Indianapolis Prize is a signature conservation initiative of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc. Since its inception as the largest individual monetary award given for animal conservation, the Prize has awarded more than $6.2 million and in 2023, reached more than 2 billion people globally.

Most recently, the remarkable stories of the 2023 Indianapolis Prize Winner, penguin expert Dr. Pablo Borboroglu, reached audiences across more than 30 countries including Canada, China, France, Australia, Peru and Argentina. Through media tours to celebrate Winners over the years, the Prize has taken center stage at high-profile locations including the New York Stock Exchange, Times Square and the Natural History Museum in the United Kingdom.

Special events bring conservation into the public conversation and connect world renowned conservationists with influential individuals, emerging leaders, prospective scientists and youth. Celebrity ambassadors have also lent their voice and passion to support Prize efforts and campaigns, including Jane Alexander, Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Josh Duhamel, Kristen Bell and Sam Waterson. For their dedicated advocacy and outreach, some have been recognized by the Indianapolis Prize as Jane Alexander Global Wildlife Ambassadors.

The Prize draws attention to the important work of leading animal conservationists whose work protects species and creates successful and replicable conservation methods that ensure future generations will live in a flourishing and sustainable world.

This represents the vitality and commitment of the Indianapolis community’s dedication to make a difference to our natural world. No other city or community in the world has an award program with the magnitude and impact of the Indianapolis Prize.


In 2022, The Indianapolis Prize commissioned an online survey of more than 1,000 individuals to provide insight on the public perceptions of animal conservation.

The results affirm that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe animal conservation is important to society at large and is in humans’ best interest. Given our current political landscape, this data proves that both Democrats and Republicans who don’t typically agree on much, believe that protecting wild things and wild places is important, and speaks to the conservation hero in all of us.

These compelling findings include:

  • 95% of Americans are concerned about the extinction of animal species
  • 90% of Americans say they are inclined to vote for a candidate in the upcoming midterm election if they support policies that protect endangered animals.
  • In 2020, 77% of Americans said they were more inclined to purchase products and services from companies that support the protection of endangered animals. In 2022, that number grew to 81% and the largest spike in sentiment again came from Republicans.
  • Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) of Americans believe the government (federal and state) should do more to promote policies that protect endangered animals.
Heroes in the Field

The Indianapolis Prize recognizes and rewards conservationists who have achieved major victories in advancing the sustainability of animal species. Placing the Winner and DeHaan Finalists on the pedestal usually reserved for sports and entertainment stars, the impact can be measured by the successes of these men and women working selflessly for wild things and wild places, and by the changes in the lives of countless others inspired by their victories. Over the years, more than 150 nominees have shared their journeys — protecting animals large and small, discovering new species and bringing populations back from the very brink of extinction.

A Spectacular Celebration

The Indianapolis Prize Gala presented by Cummins Inc., takes audiences on a visually stunning trip around the world to see firsthand how heroic conservationists are saving earth’s endangered species. During this black-tie affair in downtown Indianapolis, the Winner and DeHaan Finalists are honored for their selfless dedication, scientific expertise and lasting success, while an influential celebrity is honored for achievements and advocacy as a public voice on behalf of species conservation with the Jane Alexander Global Wildlife Ambassador Award.