The Indianapolis Prize, one of the world’s leading animal conservation awards, has selected 51 nominees who exemplify the dedication and effort to save species and work toward a sustainable future.
One of the nominees will be selected for the 2023 prize, an initiative under the Indianapolis Zoological Society. The winner will receive $250,000, and five finalists will be awarded $50,000 each.
“The 2023 Prize nominees represent the most accomplished wildlife conservationists dedicated to protecting and preserving animal species,” Rob Shumaker, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo, said in a statement. “It is an honor to highlight their incredible work through the Indianapolis Prize.”
The nominees come from around the globe and work with a diverse range of species ranging from primates and reptiles to birds and sea life.
A prize nominating committee and separate jury undertake a two-step judging process to select the finalists and winner. The top six conservationists will be celebrated at the Indianapolis Prize Gala on Sept. 30, 2023.
Early this year, the Indianapolis Zoological Society announced its first ever Emerging Conservationist Award under the greater Indianapolis Prize. This new award will honor a wildlife conservationist under the age of 40.
The Indianapolis Prize has awarded more than $5.6 million in prizes since it began in 2006 and the biennial celebration has named eight conservationists from across the globe.
Others are reading:10 things you don’t know about the Indianapolis Prize
The 2023 nominees, listed below in alphabetical order, include new names as well as a handful of past nominees. The Indianapolis Prize provided short biographies for each of the 51 nominees for next year’s prize.
Indianapolis Prize nominees
Enzo Aliaga-Rossel — Universidad Mayor de San Andrés La Paz, Bolivia
Conservation champion for Bolivia’s only river dolphin. Aliaga-Rossel coordinated the successful rescue and translocation of 26 individual river dolphins. He is the founder and director of the Program for Research and Conservation of the Bolivian River Dolphin, which is dedicated to the conservation of this endangered species through education, community engagement and ecotourism initiatives.
Claudine André — Friends of Bonobos of the Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo
Working to ensure the long-term survival of bonobos and their rain forest habitat through education and collaboration with governments and local communities. André is the founder of Friends of Bonobos, the world’s only bonobo rewilding program, which provides rescue, sanctuary and rewilding of endangered bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Elisa Areano — Fundación Mundo Azul, Guatemala
Protector of sharks, rays and chimeras in the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean. Areano is created the first baseline for sharks, rays and chimera species in these waters and he developed Guatemala’s National Action Plan for Conservation and Sustainable Use of Chondrichthyans, the country’s first management plan for any species. Areano is the founder and executive director of Fundación Mundo Azul, the only NGO in Guatemala focused on protecting sharks, rays and chimeras.
Balemba Emmanuel Balagizi — Iyondji Community Bonobo Reserve, Democratic Republic of Congo
Conservationist working to protect bonobos, the last of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s great apes, through law enforcement and education to reduce poaching and habitat fragmentation. Balagizi contributed to the stabilization of Lake Edward in Virunga National Park by combatting illegal fishing and oil drilling.
Purnima Devi Barman — WiNN, Women in Nature Network, India
Pioneer in conservation efforts for greater adjutant storks. Barman created a campaign to ensure the survival of adjutant storks and created community pride in villages that are home to the species. She serves as the director of WiNN, which was established to build connections among women around the world to manage natural resources and is the founder of the Hargila Army, which has organized and empowered local women to become community advocates and conservationists.
Maria Elena Barragan-Paladines — Fundación Herpetólogica Gustavo Orcés, Ecuador
Leader in bringing people together and educating more than 200,00 children in Ecuador on biodiversity and the value of amphibians and reptiles. Barragan-Paladines brings conservation messages to thousands of people in Amazonian communities and coastal regions of Ecuador. She serves as the executive director of the Fundación Herpetólogica Gustavo Orcés, an Ecuadorian NGO focused on herpetology.
Albert Baya — A Rocha Kenya, Kenya
Community conservation officer for research and conservation projects in and around the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve in Kenya. Baya is responsible for discovering an unknown population of the Sokoke Scops Owl in the Dakatcha Woodlands, a 2,000-square-kilometer biodiversity area. He is the lead negotiator with nearby communities to create a nature reserve to protect this owl species.
Caroline Blanvillain — Société d’Ornithologie de Polynésie, French Polynesia
Champion for avian biodiversity of French Polynesia. Blanvillain is working to protect the Tahiti monarch, also known as the Tahiti flycatcher, the most critically endangered of the area’s native bird species. She is responsible for improving safeguards for other threatened wildlife in the archipelago that have benefited the islands’ ecosystems.
Christophe Boesch — Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology; Wild Chimpanzee Foundation, Germany
Primatologist dedicated to providing alternatives to bushmeat and applying new technology to great ape conservation, decreasing strain on wild chimpanzee populations. Boesch uncovered the effects of rapid deforestation across SubSaharan Africa and promoted new areas for protecting the remaining chimpanzee populations in Guinea. Finalist for the 2021 Indianapolis Prize.
Sheila Bolin — The Regal Swan Foundation, USA
Advocate for swans worldwide through conservation, research, veterinary medicine and education. Bolin is the president and CEO of the Regal Swan Foundation. She is the author of habitat and care books and a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Swan Specialist Group.
Pablo Borboroglu — Global Penguin Society, Argentina
Protector of ocean and coastal habitats for penguins in several countries including Argentina. Borboroglu works to improve penguin colony management through the creation of large, protected areas, including 32 million acres of ocean and coastal habitat. He is the founder and leader of the Global Penguin Society, an international conservation coalition for the world’s penguin species.
Gerardo Ceballos — Institute of Ecology, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico
Champion for jaguars in Mexico, including conducting the first country-level jaguar census. Ceballos developed successful conservation strategies for endangered mammals in North America, including the black-footed ferret. He was a proponent of the passage of Mexico’s first Act for Endangered Species. Ceballos was a Finalist for 2010, 2014 and 2021 Indianapolis Prize.
Colin Chapman — George Washington University, USA
Wildlife conservationist studying long-term population dynamics of the red colobus monkey and other mammals of Kibale National Park in Uganda. Chapman manages projects in elephant ecology and improving human-wildlife interactions and studies gibbons and snub-nosed monkey behavior and ecology in China.
Luis Coloma — Centro Jambatu of Amphibians de Investigación y Conservatón de Anfibios, Ecuador
Researcher working to protect Ecuadorian amphibians at risk of extinction through research and conservation planning. Coloma was the first Ecuadorian to describe a new amphibian species and has described an additional 33 new amphibians and one reptile species to science.
Lisa Dabek — Paupa New Guinea Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program; Woodland Park Zoo, USA
Creator of the first conservation area in Papua New Guinea focused on tree kangaroos. Dabek pioneered the use of Crittercam technology on arboreal mammals for the first time, allowing scientists to record animal behavior through mounted video cameras and transmitters. She is the founder of the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program.
William Darwall — Freshwater Biodiversity Unit, International Union for Conservation of Nature, United Kingdom
Advocate for global freshwater biodiversity through research on aquatic ecosystem ecology and conservation in developing countries in Africa, Europe and Asia. Darwall assesses threatened freshwater species for the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List and Freshwater Key Biodiversity Areas.
Roy Dennis — Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, Scotland
Field ornithologist dedicated to the conservation of rare birds and the reintroduction of lost species such as the whitetailed eagle and red kite. Dennis is the honorary director of the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, author of several books on bird conservation and a wildlife consultant.
Karen Eckert — Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network, WIDECAST, USA
Conservationist promoting recovery and sustainable management of sea turtle populations in more than 40 nations and territories. Eckert has helped protect six species of endangered sea turtles and mobilized community and government support in Caribbean nations to fully protect sea turtles. She serves as the executive director of WIDECAST, an organization that facilitates the recovery and sustainable management of sea turtle populations across the globe.
Jacques Flamand — World Wildlife Fund, South Africa Black Rhino Range Expansion, South Africa
Wildlife veterinarian who led the construction of 12 new black rhinoceros habitats in South Africa. Flamand completed the largest international black rhino translocation in the history of South Africa and involved local communities and stakeholders in rhino conservation. He serves as the project leader of World Wildlife Fund’s South Africa’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project located in South Africa.
Biruté Mary Galdikas — Orangutan Foundation International, USA
Orangutan researcher who first documented the long orangutan birth interval and recorded more than 400 types of food consumed by orangutans. Galdikas contributed to the release of more than 500 rehabilitated orangutans back into the wild and provided unprecedented detail about orangutan ecology. She serves as president and is the co-founder of Orangutan Foundation International, an organization dedicated to protecting the conservation of wild orangutans in Borneo and their rain forest habitats.
Glenn Gauvry — Ecological Research & Development Group, USA
Engages citizens to participate in horseshoe crab conservation. Gauvry is responsible for creating the Just flip ‘em! public awareness campaign to encourage individuals to help rescue stranded horseshoe crabs. He is the founder of the Ecological Research & Development Group focused on the conservation of the world’s four horseshoe crab species.
Alhadji Somba Byombo Ghsilain — Congolese Wildlife Authority, Democratic Republic of Congo
Wildlife Conservationist and Deputy Park Manager of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Garamba National Park. Ghsilain conducts ranger training to combat illegal wildlife trafficking and poaching. He oversees projects that include protecting South African elephants, forest elephants and mountain gorillas.
Norman Greenhawk — Project Palaka; The Harris Conservation Initiative for Reptiles and Amphibians, USA
Creator of the first and only captive breeding conservation program for threatened and endangered amphibians in the Philippines. Greenhawk developed the first protocols for keeping Philippine amphibians alive in human care. He is the founder and director of Project Palaka.
Axel Hochkirch — University of Trier, Germany
Advocate for invertebrates worldwide through conservation, research and education. Hochkirch pioneered conservation strategies for the critically endangered Crau plain Grasshopper, including using trained detection dogs to find grasshoppers in the wild. He serves as the chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission Invertebrate Conservation Committee, which was responsible for creating several new Specialist Groups dedicated to invertebrate conservation worldwide.
Valentin Yurieuich Ilyashenko — A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Science, Russia
Protector of key habitats for endangered birds and other species. Ilyashenko is responsible for establishing new international protected areas and fostering international cooperation to advance endangered species populations such as Amur tigers, Japanese cranes, white-naped cranes and Western grey whales in Russia, Asia and Europe. He is the founder of the Khanka Lake State Nature Biosphere Reserve in the Russian Far East.
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka — Conservation Through Public Health, Uganda
Wildlife veterinary officer and protector of critically endangered mountain gorillas in East Africa. Kalema-Zikusoka promotes conservation by cultivating an understanding of how humans and wildlife can coexist in protected areas in Africa. She founded Conservation Through Public Health, an organization promoting biodiversity conservation through enabling the communities and wildlife to coexist by improving people’s health and livelihoods in and around Africa’s protected areas.
Daniel Klem Jr. — Muhlenberg College, USA
Ornithologist recognized for groundbreaking research into the mortality of birds because of glass window strikes. Klem pioneered experiments to test solutions to the bird-window collision issue, which led to the creation of a wide range of cost-effective applications such as incorporating UV patterns in windows to deter birds.
Michael Loomis — North Carolina Zoological Park, USA
Wildlife veterinarian focused on the study of elephants and elephant habitats in Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria. Loomis is the chief veterinarian for the North Carolina Zoo and is responsible for initiating projects that informed present-day understanding of elephant behavior, elephant management and human-wildlife conflicts.
Laurie Marker — Cheetah Conservation Fund, Africa
Research scientist who employs multifaceted approaches to the conservation of wild cheetahs in Namibia. Marker conducted research, established conservation models and created cooperative alliances on behalf of cheetahs, such as collaborating with local farmers to raise livestock guardian dogs to reduce human/cheetah conflict. She is the founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Marker was a Finalist for the 2008 and 2010 Indianapolis Prize.
Patrícia Medici — Institute for Ecological Research, Brazil
Conservationist dedicated to securing lowland tapirs and their remaining habitats in Brazil. Medici founded the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative, which has directly led to the development of global, national and regional tapir conservation strategies and action plans. She serves as the chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission Tapir Specialist Group, helping to grow a global network of more than 130 tapir conservationists from 27 countries.
Ian Michler — BloodLions.org, South Africa
Dedicated conservationist in Africa, including working as a specialist guide and photojournalist. Michler is a feature film member of the International League of Conservation Writers and co-directed “Blood Lions,” a documentary investigating the lion breeding industry in South Africa.
Flávia Miranda — Instituto Tamanduá, Brazil
Leader in conservation efforts for anteaters, armadillos and sloths. Miranda discovered six new species of silky anteater and is responsible for creating public conservation policies in several South American countries. She is a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission for Anteater, Sloth and Armadillo Specialist Groups. She is the founder and president of Instituto Tamanduá, an organization dedicated to research, management and conservation.
Charudutt Mishra — Snow Leopard Trust, USA
Wildlife conservationist working to protect snow leopards and their Central Asia habitats. Mishra is responsible for establishing India’s first community-based initiatives for snow leopard conservation, including innovative livestock insurance programs to combat human-wildlife conflict. He serves as the Science and Conservation Director of the Snow Leopard Trust.
Said Shee Mohamed — Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya
Marine conservationist working to protect coral reefs and marine and coastal ecosystems in Kenya. Mohamed is responsible for increasing community knowledge through a community marine monitoring program that generated key information needed for sustainable management.
Citlalli Morelos-Juárez — Reserva Tesoro Escondido, Ecuador
Primatologist dedicated to protecting the endangered brown-headed spider monkey. Morelos-Juárez is the cofounder of Reserva Tesoro Escondido, a reserve focused on protecting more than 2,000 hectares of primary forest in the Chocó lowlands of Colombia, a global biodiversity hotspot.
James Mwanza — Kasanka Trust Limited, Zambia
General Manager of Kasanka Trust Unlimited. Mwanza implemented conservation action strategies for the Kasanka National Park in Zambia, which protects the world’s largest fruit bat migration. He led legal court action that resulted in environmental and wildlife protection in Zambia.
Wanda Olech — Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Poland
Conservation leader dedicated to the protection of the European bison. Olech initiated and led the European Bison Conservation Centre, an international network of European bison breeders across Europe. She serves as the president of the European Bison Friends Society.
Vijitha Perera — Department of Wildlife Conservation, Sri Lanka
Senior wildlife veterinarian dedicated to protecting Asian elephants through research, mitigation of human-wildlife conflict and community outreach. Perera is the leader of the Elephant Transit Home, a rehabilitation and reintroduction facility for orphaned Asian elephants.
Stefanie Powers — William Holden Wildlife Foundation, USA
Acclaimed actress and wildlife advocate. Powers is the founder and leader of the William Holden Wildlife Foundation, an education center offering conservation programs for local communities. The foundation provides courses in biodiversity, species conservation and offers alternatives to habitat deconstruction activities.
Rudi Putra — Forum Konservasi Leuser, Indonesia
Biologist working to protect the critically endangered Sumatran rhinos by dismantling illegal palm oil plantations and creating antipoaching patrols. Putra is the director of Forum Konservasi Leuer, a nonprofit focused on protecting Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem, the last place on earth where Sumatran rhinos, elephants, tigers and orangutans coexist.
Patti Ragan — Center for Great Apes, USA
Protector of orangutans and chimpanzees. Ragan founded the Center for Great Apes to provide a permanent sanctuary for apes who have been rescued or retired from the entertainment industry and exotic pet trade.
Gregory Rasmussen — Painted Dog Research Trust, Zimbabwe
Wildlife conservation biologist dedicated to studying the endangered painted dog. Rasmussen is the founder and serves as the executive director of the Painted Dog Research Trust, an organization tackling ecological and socioeconomic issues that impinge on Africa’s most endangered predator.
Carlos Ignacio Roesler — Aves Argentinas, Argentina
Leads conservation efforts for the critically endangered hooded grebe, a recently discovered water bird species in the Patagonian Steppe. Roesler is responsible for increasing scientific knowledge of the species and developing strategies for habitat protection and training early-career conservationists.
Oliver Ryder — San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, USA
Director of Conservation Genetics at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, overseeing research activities in the areas of molecular genetics, genomic studies and genetic rescue efforts to reduce the extinction risk of many species. Ryder contributed to key studies relevant to conservation management efforts for gorillas, California condors, black rhinos, bighorn sheep and other species.
Martin Schaefer — Fundación de Conservación Jocotoco, Ecuador
Champion of avian biodiversity in Ecuador. Schaefer is responsible for developing and implementing conservation strategies that led to population increases of threatened bird species in a network of 16 Jocotoco reserves in Ecuador.
Clio Smeeton — Cochrane Ecological Institute, Canada
Wildlife advocate and the founder and president of the Cochrane Ecological Institute, devoted to the preservation and conservation of biological diversity through education, rescue, rehabilitation and reintroduction. Smeeton is recognized for founding the first captive-breeding colony of swift fox intended solely for reintroduction and initiated swift fox reintroduction programs in Canada and the United States.
Raman Sukumar — Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, India
Renowned ecologist recognized for his work on the behavior of Asian elephants and how the species has affected human and natural environments. Sukumar established protected corridors and worked with governments to preserve Asian elephant habitats and manage human-elephant conflict.
Martin Tyner — Enoch Wildlife Rescue, USA
Falconer and founder of the Southwest Wildlife Foundation of Utah. Tyner developed Cedar Canyon Nature Park and advances wildlife education, rescue and rehabilitation through environmental education.
Alvaro Velasco — Fauna Silvestre Productos and Servicios, Venezuela
Leads conservation programs for American and Orinoco crocodiles in Venezuela. Velasco coordinated captive breeding activities to strengthen Orinoco crocodile populations in the wild through the release of captive-bred animals in areas where the species had disappeared.
Herman Wanningen — World Fish Migration Foundation, Netherlands
Aquatic ecologist specializing in fish migration and water management. Wanningen promoted the maintenance and recovery of free-flowing rivers by raising global awareness through the biennial World Fish Migration Day event.
Kerri Wolter — VulPro, South Africa
Manages research on vulture disease and nutrition, facilitates breeding census across colonies, and coordinates wild captures to apply GPS tracking tags. Wolter manages a rehabilitation and captive breeding center with more than 150 non-releasable vultures. She is the founder and chief executive officer of VulPro, an organization focused on advancing knowledge and awareness of African vultures.
Karl Schneider is an IndyStar environment reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @karlstartswithk
IndyStar’s environmental reporting project is made possible through the generous support of the nonprofit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.
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