Nominees Announced for World’s Leading Animal Conservation Award
International Wildlife Heroes Vie for Top Honor and $250,000

Nominees Announced for World's Leading Animal Conservation Award

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

As the need for wildlife conservation grows exponentially, the Indianapolis Prize, the world’s leading award for animal conservation, elevates a message of hope for our planet. Today, Indianapolis Prize officials announced 31 global leaders in the field as Nominees for the 2020 award. These men and women are at the forefront of innovative research, scientific advances and incredible efforts bringing animals back from the brink of extinction.

“These remarkable Nominees are responsible for some of the finest conservation work occurring on our planet today. They lead, protect, inspire, and offer hope for everyone who cares about the natural world,” said Dr. Rob Shumaker, Indianapolis Zoo president. “I am immensely proud that we can highlight their important achievements through the Indianapolis Prize.”

Nominees hail from countries across the globe, focused on animals both iconic and unique, from primates and elephants to marine mammals and birds. The Winner of the Prize receives an unrestricted $250,000 cash award while five remaining Finalists will each receive $10,000.

Internationally renowned professional conservationists and local representatives make up a Nominating Committee and Jury who will select six Finalists and determine a Winner, respectively. These selected conservationists will then be honored at the next Indianapolis Prize Gala presented by Cummins Inc., to be held Sept. 12, 2020.

In alphabetical order, the Nominees for the 2020 Indianapolis Prize are:

Bala Amarasekaran (Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary) — Founder of the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, where more than 100 critically endangered, orphaned chimpanzees are cared for in Sierra Leone, home to the third largest population of the great apes in West Africa. His work with governments and local communities ensures the long-term survival of chimps and their forest habitat.

Purnima Devi Barman, Ph.D. (Aaranyak Biodiversity Conservation Society) — Renowned environmentalist focused on efforts to conserve greater adjutant storks — the most endangered stork species in India; credited with creating a campaign to ensure the survival of the birds and bring pride to villages that are home to the species, changing an opinion that once viewed the birds as a bad omen.

Caroline Blanvillain, Ph.D. (Société d’Ornithologie de Polynésie) — Champion for the avian biodiversity of French Polynesia. Her work to protect the Tahiti monarch, the most critically endangered of the native bird species, also improved the safeguards for other threatened wildlife in the archipelago and has benefited whole island ecosystems.

Dee Boersma, Ph.D. (University of Washington; Ecosystem Sentinels) — Conservationist studying the effects of environmental change on Galápagos penguins, has provided science on the species for nearly 50 years, constructing nests and developing marine protected areas. Her work with Magellanic penguins over three decades includes championing efforts against harvesting, habitat loss and oil pollution in Argentina while training students in conservation. Finalist for the 2016 and 2018 Indianapolis Prize.

Christophe Boesch, Ph.D. (Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology; Wild Chimpanzee Foundation) — Primatologist dedicated to providing alternatives to bush meat and applying new technology to great ape conservation, decreasing strain on wild chimpanzee populations.

Sheila Bolin (The Regal Swan Foundation, Inc.) — Advocate for swans worldwide through conservation, research, veterinary medicine and education. President and CEO of the Regal Swan Foundation, Inc., author of habitat and care books, and member of IUCN’s Swan Specialist Group.

Richard Bonham (Big Life Foundation Kenya) — Leader of Big Life Foundation, protecting elephants, black rhinos and lions in the Greater Amboseli ecosystem. Alongside Maasai field staff and rangers, he has led the arrest of thousands of wildlife crime suspects, confiscated more than two tons of ivory from the illegal market over the last two years and implements innovative solutions to reduce human-wildlife conflict, like crop-protection fencing.

Gerardo Ceballos, Ph.D. (Institute of Ecology, National Autonomous University of Mexico) — Champion for jaguars in Mexico, conducted the first country-level jaguar census; developed successful conservation strategies for endangered mammals in North America, including the black-footed ferret; a key proponent in the passage of the country’s Act for Endangered Species. Finalist for the 2010 and 2014 Indianapolis Prize.

Lisa Dabek, Ph.D. (Paupa New Guinea Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program; Woodland Park Zoo) — Founder of the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program; responsible for the first Conservation Area in Papua New Guinea; used Crittercam© technology for the first time on arboreal mammals, allowing scientists to record animal behavior through mounted video cameras and transmitters.

Sarah Durant, Ph.D. (Zoological Society of London) — Advanced socio-ecological approaches for large carnivore conservation throughout Africa, developing 18 National Action Plans across country governments, covering 96 percent of African cheetah range; her research focuses on habitat connectivity and human-wildlife conflict.

Sylvia Earle, Ph.D. (Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, Inc.; Mission Blue; SEAlliance) — Oceanographer, author and founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, Inc., Mission Blue and SEAlliance. Focused on researching ocean ecosystems, new exploration technologies and developing a global network of marine protected areas. Led more than 100 expeditions and logged more than 7,000 hours underwater.

Suwanna Gauntlett, Ph.D. (Wildlife Alliance) — Responsible for the creation of Wildlife Alliance; at the forefront of endangered species conservation, leading teams for Amur tigers, olive ridley turtles and the establishment of a National Park in the Cardamom Rainforest.

Issa Gedi (Northern Rangelands Trust; Ishaqbini Hirola Community Conservancy and Sanctuary) — Leader in the conservation of the world’s most endangered antelope: the hirola. Successfully increased numbers, mobilized community and governmental support, and eliminated predation and poaching in the sanctuary, where 20 percent of the global hirola population resides.

LoraKim Joyner (One Earth Conservation) — Wildlife veterinarian and co-director of One Earth Conservation conducting research, protecting nests and rescuing wild parrots. Initiated project that safeguards largest wild parrot conservation area in Latin America through community patrols, increasing macaw populations and decreasing chick poaching rates.

Tah Eric Kaba (The Last Great Ape Organization) — Investigates and exposes criminals involved in illegal trafficking of wildlife products including elephant ivory, baby primates and pangolins — the world’s most trafficked mammals. His work changed how wildlife laws are enforced in Cameroon and other African nations.

Robert Lacy, Ph.D. (Chicago Zoological Society, Species Conservation Toolkit Initiative; IUCN SSC Conservation Planning Specialist Group) — Innovator of population biology and scientific principles, data analysis techniques and modeling tools with profound implications to manage species at risk of extinction; involved in projects protecting killer whales, takahe, gray wolves, Iberian lynx, panthers, parrots and more. 

Harvey Locke (Harvey Locke Consulting) — Recognized for his work in Canada’s national park creation, and management and conservation of large landscapes; photographer, writer and co-founder to both the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative and Nature Needs Half movement.

Roderic Mast (Oceanic Society) — Founder and leader of the State of the World’s Sea Turtles program, which is the first open-access database on global sea turtle biogeography; CEO of Oceanic Society, America’s first ocean nonprofit.

Debra Moskovits, Ph.D. (The Field Museum) — Founded programs for conservation science and cultural understanding for the well-being of people living in biodiverse areas. Pioneered a conservation model that led to the protection of 21.5 million acres of wilderness regions in South America and China, home to more than 2,200 vertebrate species.

Ikponke Nkanta (Tropical Research and Conservation Centre) — Leads conservation efforts for critically endangered Sclater’s guenon, one of the highest priority species among the African primates; increased community knowledge for sustainable, forest-friendly agricultural practices.

Olivier Nsengimana, DVM, MVetSci. (Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association) — Founded Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association to stop illegal poaching and protect endangered grey crowned cranes through educational outreach, habitat rehabilitation and collaboration between government and communities; established committee to combat wildlife crime and engage youth through environmental clubs in schools located near national parks.

Jamie Rappaport Clark (Defenders of Wildlife) — Instrumental in developing coexistence techniques increasing social tolerance and restoration efforts for gray wolves across the contiguous United States; shepherded the recovery of endangered species including bald eagles, black-footed ferrets, grizzly bears, red wolves and Florida panthers.

Paul Ritter (Pontiac Township High School) — Led high school student involvement in reintroduction efforts for alligator snapping turtles to their historic home range; secured acreage to begin projects on vital pollinator and shorebird habitat and developed a model for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly and devil crayfish.

John Robinson, Ph.D. (Wildlife Conservation Society) — Leader of Wildlife Conservation Society’s Global Program, helping establish terrestrial and marine protected areas, including sites for 50 percent of the world’s tigers, the largest populations of western and eastern gorillas and forest elephants, coral species, jaguars and more.

Ian Singleton, Ph.D. (Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme; PanEco-YEL) — Responsible for groundbreaking ecological field studies on Sumatran orangutans; as principal conservation advisor for PanEco Foundation, led conservation activities for NGOs, including the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, focused on habitat and species protection, education, law enforcement, rehabilitation and reintroduction.

Angela Smith (Shark Team One) — Instrumental in conservation action for whale shark, oceanic whitetip, great hammerhead and tiger shark; integrated approaches and use of new technology for research and the creation of marine reserve areas, protecting thousands of acres of underwater habitat for sharks, coral reefs, mangrove nurseries and top predators such as barracuda and goliath grouper.

Jigmet Takpa (Government of Jammu and Kashmir, India; Department of Wildlife Protection) — Focused on evidence-based landscape-level conservation programs in Ladakh northern India, resulting in population recovery of snow leopard, Tibetan argali, gazelle and antelope, lynx, Pallas’ cat, and Tibetan and black-necked crane; introduced projects and technologies for local communities to regard wildlife as assets rather than threats.

Martin Tyner (Southwest Wildlife Foundation of Utah) — Falconer and founder of the Southwest Wildlife Foundation of Utah, dedicated to wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, wildlife and environmental education, and the development of the Cedar Canyon Nature Park.

Amanda Vincent, Ph.D. (Project Seahorse) — Leading authority on seahorse biology and global conservation; first person to study seahorses underwater, document extensive trade and initiated seahorse conservation project, Project Seahorse. Finalist for the 2010 and 2016 Indianapolis Prize.

William Weber, Ph.D. (Yale University) — Creator of the Congo Basin Forest Project for the Wildlife Conservation Society resulting in success for mountain gorilla conservation; led programs in the Crown of the Continent, Greater Yellowstone and Path of the Pronghorn initiatives; organized multi-institutional effort to promote large-scale ecological restoration of the bison.

Long Yongcheng, Ph.D. (Alashan Society of Entrepreneurs and Ecology; The Nature Conservancy) — Intensively studied the rare Yunnan snub-nosed monkey, endemic to the disappearing primeval forests in southwestern China; his holistic conservation contributions helped lead to a tripling of the species’ population.

A History of Indianapolis Prize Winners

The Indianapolis Prize was first awarded in 2006 to Dr. George Archibald, the co-founder of the International Crane Foundation. The 2008 winner was George Schaller, Ph.D., known as one of the founding fathers of wildlife conservation, and both a senior conservationist for the Wildlife Conservation Society and vice president for Panthera. In 2010, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Ph.D., founder of Save the Elephants, received the Prize for his pioneering research in elephant social behavior and for leading the way in the fight against the poaching of African elephants. Steven Amstrup, Ph.D., chief scientist for Polar Bears International, received the 2012 Prize for his work promoting the cause of the world’s largest land carnivore. In 2014, Dr. Patricia C. Wright, founder of Centre ValBio, became the first woman awarded the Indianapolis Prize for her dedication to saving Madagascar’s famed lemurs from extinction. Dr. Carl Jones received the 2016 Indianapolis Prize for his species recovery success on the island of Mauritius, including the echo parakeet, pink pigeon and Mauritius kestrel. Russ Mittermeier, Ph.D., Chief Conservation Officer of Global Wildlife Conservation earned the 2018 Prize for championing the concept of biodiversity hotspots and protecting the endemic species relying on those critical habitats.

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ABOUT THE INDIANAPOLIS PRIZE

The Indianapolis Prize recognizes and rewards conservationists who have achieved major victories in advancing the sustainability of an animal species or group of species. Winners receive an unrestricted $250,000 award. Remaining Finalists each receive $10,000.

MEDIA NOTE

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