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The 2014 Indianapolis Prize Winner

Patricia C. Wright, Ph.D., Stony Brook University 

​​​​​​​​Patricia C. Wright, winner of the 2014 Indianapolis Prize, is a champion in the fight to save lemurs from extinction. Lemurs are the most endangered mammal on earth. ​​With passion, scientific excellence and political acumen, Patricia Wright transformed Madagascar’s park system and championed the survival of the island’s most famous animal — the lemur — despite setbacks from timber exploitation, government corruption, and cultural barriers. Wright’s remarkable story and tireless dedication is why she won the 2014 Indianapolis Prize.​ [more]


In the 1960s, Wright, then a social worker, purchased an owl monkey from a New York City pet store. Observing her new pet’s behaviors and mannerisms sparked her enthusiasm for primates, leading Wright to ultimately obtain her doctorate in Anthropology from City University of New York in 1985.

Just one year later, Wright traveled to Madagascar, one of the most critical areas for primate conservation in the world. There, she discovered the golden bamboo lemur — a species previously unknown to science — and rediscovered another species, the greater bamboo lemur, that had not been seen on the island for more than 50 years. These two extraordinary encounters helped catalyze cooperation between the people, the government and Wright to transform the Malagasy park system and protect the critically endangered lemurs.

Wright’s work was not without its share of obstacles. Perhaps the biggest challenge was posed by Madagascar’s highly lucrative timber industry, a trade driven by international demand for expensive lumber such as rosewood and ebony. To cease the destruction of the rainforest and the homes of her beloved lemurs, Wright used her influence to persuade the Malagasy government to support the national parks system, establishing the Ranomafana National Park in 1991. Ranomafana is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the world’s most physically and culturally significant locations. Wright has created a solid legacy and model for conservation that is used across the world, and her efforts have encouraged the inauguration of 18 other national parks. The key to her continued success is a keen understanding of the importance of cooperation and empowerment.​


The 2014 Indianapolis Prize Finalists

​​​The Indianapolis Prize is pleased to recognize the 2014  finalists for their outstanding work to protect and conserve the endangered animals of our planet. 

​​Joel Berger, Ph.D., Wildlife Conservation Society

Dr. Joel Berger approaches his work as actionable conservation, affecting change throughout the world for large-scale mammals. His studies and economic analyses have lead African nations to reevaluate the practice of rhino dehorning and U.S. officials to support the Wyoming migration corridor known as the Path of the Pronghorn. Through visionary thinking, science and implementation, his work is igniting new excitement in conservation and migration ecology, from Canada to Mongolia and beyond. 

In the Arctic, global warming advances at twice the rate of the rest of the world, and its land animal populations – particularly the muskoxen – are modern metaphors for climate change. Joel currently works to understand why their populations are in decline, and what we can do about it. 

Gerardo Ceballos, Ph.D., National Autonomous, University of Mexico


Dr. Gerardo Ceballos is at the forefront of groundbreaking research and animal conservation in Mexico, acting as a key proponent in the passage of the country's Act for Endangered Species, which now protects more than 40,000 animals. ​

Developing successful conservation strategies for a wide variety of species, including the jaguar and the black-footed ferret – the most endangered mammal in North America – Gerardo approaches conservation in a way that is broadly applicable and undeniably impactful. [close]​

Carl Jones, Ph.D., Mauritian Wildlife Foundation

A global center of avian diversity, the Republic of Mauritius was once the home to the famed, now-extinct dodo. Dr. Carl Jones has saved many of the islands' other exotic birds from a similar fate.

Jones has saved a dozen species, including Mauritius kestrels, pink pigeons and echo parakeets, whose effective populations were once less than 10 and now range in the hundreds. He has also controlled invasive species and reintroduced endemic plants, reptiles (including giant tortoises brought to the islands by Charles Darwin) and birds to revitalize the Mauritian ecosystems and create a model for other to replicate.​ [close]​

Russell A. Mittermeier, Ph.D.,Conservation International 

As the leader of one of the world's most important conservation organizations, finalist Dr. Russ Mittermeier is a conservation icon and was named a "Hero for the Planet" by Time magazine. A biologist turned conservationist, Russ is as successful and comfortable in the boardroom as he is in the jungle. He can successfully lead a meeting with heads of state and then hop on a boat to go wade through piranha-infested waters.

He has discovered 12 new species and is committed to conserving some of the Earth's most critically threatened habitats. He largely focuses on biodiversity hotspots, which are critical areas known for their biological diversity and endemic species. 

Carl Safina, Ph.D., Blue Ocean Institute (now known as The Safina Center​)

Called "Thoreau for the 21st Century," Dr. Carl Safina is an accomplished ocean conservationist who seeks to create a "sea ethic" through science, art and literature. Noting the steady declines in fish populations in the 1990's, Safina became a voice for the conservation and restoration of marine life. He led movements to explore the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, ban high-seas drift nets, reform federal fisheries laws and achieve the passage of a United Nations global fish treaty.

Author of six critically acclaimed books and host of PBS's Saving the Ocean with Carl Safina, he uses his talent for communicative science to demonstrate how the ocean is changing. The result is compelling, lyrical storytelling that inspires a wide audience to take action.​ [close]

The 2014 Indianapolis Prize Nominees

The Nominees for the 2014 Indianapolis Prize included conservationists representing a wide range of scientific and educational programs involving animals from every corner of the globe.​ 

In alphabetical order:  [more ...]

Joel Berger, Ph.D.: (Wildlife ConservationSociety) Distinguished scientist leading projects that resulted in America's 1st federally protected wildlife corridor, how cashmere trade is affecting central Asian endangered mammals, how muskoxen are faring under Arctic warming, and saiga conservation in Mongolia. 

Christophe Boesch, Ph.D.: (Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology) Primatologist dedicated to decreasing pressure on wild chimpanzees, providing alternatives to bush meat and applying new technology to great apes conservation. 

Sheila Bolin(The Regal Swan Foundation, Inc.) Advocate for humane treatment and veterinary care for swans worldwide through conservation, research, veterinary medicine, education and swan-related product development.

Patrick Burchfield, Ph.D.: (Gladys Porter Zoo) Persistent defender of Kemp's ridley sea turtles against impossible odds; restored turtle nests and hatchlings released into the Gulf of Mexico by more than 3,000 percent since 1985. 

Fred Burton(Blue Iguana Recovery Programme)Internationally-known director of an integrated conservation program for the endangered Grand Cayman blue iguana; successfully brought the species back from critically endangered status on the IUCN Red List in 2012. 

Gerardo Ceballos, Ph.D.: (Instituto de Ecologia, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico)Champion for jaguars in Mexico, conducting the first country-level jaguar census and the most comprehensive jaguar study to date. Finalist for the 2010 Indianapolis Prize. (Pictured)

Wendy Collinson(The Endangered Wildlife Trust) Passionate researcher and campaigner for the Roadkill Research and Mitigation Project; responsible for driving initiatives, international road ecology workshops, and action plans that address the recognized threat of roads to biodiversity in South Africa.

Andrew Conolly(African Lion and Environmental Research Trust) Cattle and wildlife rancher turned lion conservationist; founder of the four-stage African Lion Rehabilitation and Release into the Wild Program to secure a future for Africa's most iconic species.

Lisa Dabek, Ph.D.: (Papua 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. 

Johannes Fritz, Ph.D.: (Waldrappteam) Tireless advocate of the critically endangered Waldrapp ibis and founder of the Waldrapp team project to re-establish the bird in its historic migration range from Bavaria to Italy. 

Biruté Mary Galdikas, Ph.D.: (Orangutan Foundation International) More than 35 years of advancing research on wild orangutan ecology and behavior; established rehabilitation and release programs and saved millions of acres of tropical rain forest in Borneo.

Jane Goodall, Ph.D.: (The Jane Goodall Institute)First anthropologist to observe tool-making in primates, now inspires action on behalf of endangered species, particularly chimpanzees, while encouraging people to do their part to make the world a better place for people, animals and the environment. 

Helen Hays(American Museum of Natural History)Acclaimed ornithologist working on Great Gull Island to restore its population of Roseate Terns to the largest concentration in the Western Hemisphere. 

Denver Holt(Owl Research Institute) One of the world's leading owl biologists; founder of the Owl Research Institute and the Ninepipes Wildlife Research Center.

Rodney Jackson, Ph.D.: (Snow Leopard Conservancy) Conducted in-depth radio-tracking studies of snow leopards since the 1980s; dedicated to building local communities' capacity as key players in conserving the species. Finalist for the 2008, 2010 and 2012 Indianapolis Prize.

Christopher Jenkins, Ph.D.: (The Orianne Society) Founder of the Orianne Society, dedicating numerous years to snakes, one of the most vilified and persecuted groups of animals in the world.

Carl Jones, Ph.D.: (Mauritian Wildlife Foundation) Biologist who pioneered the techniques of applied population management to reverse the decline of highly endangered species; instrumental in the creation of the first national park in Mauritius; involved in the recovery of five bird species coming from populations of less than 10 specimens. Finalist for the 2012 Indianapolis Prize. 

Stephen Kress, Ph.D.: (National Audubon Society) Widely respected ornithologist and expert in seabird conservation; known as "The Puffin Man" because of his extraordinary success leading Audubon's Project Puffin in Maine. 

Amanda Lollar(Bat World Sanctuary) Established Bat World Sanctuary, the largest rehabilitation facility in the world dedicated exclusively to bats. Created the first nutritionally sound diet for debilitated bats. 

Patricia Majluf, Ph.D.: (Universidad Peruna Cayetano Herdia) Almost singlehandedly led marine conservation efforts in Peru, through political unrest, countless governments and systemic corruption; improved industrial fishery practices and initiated campaign for the use of anchoveta as a protein source for Peru's malnourished people. 

Laurie Marker, Ph.D.: (Cheetah Conservation Fund) Founded the Cheetah Conservation Fund, leading a conservation program from humble beginnings in rural Namibia to an unparalleled model for predator conservation. Finalist for the 2008 and 2010 Indianapolis Prize.

Nick Marx(Wildlife Alliance) Revolutionized the rescue, care and rehabilitation of wild animals in Southeast Asia, risking his life many times and disrupting illegal wildlife trafficking by more than 75 percent. 

Stephen McCulloch(Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution) Created legislation to fund several ongoing marine mammal research and conservation programs while working to construct the first teaching marine mammal hospital, science and education center. 

Patricia Medici, Ph.D.: (IUCN Tapir Specialist Group) An unsung conservation hero with over 20 years experience conducting field work on tapirs and other wildlife species; founding member of the Institute for Ecological Research, the most respected and effective conservation NGO in Brazil. 

Charudutt Mishra, Ph.D.: (Snow Leopard Trust & Nature Conservation Foundation) Conservation biologist working to protect threatened species and habitats throughout Central Asia, with a focus on the charismatic and endangered snow leopard.

Russell Mittermeier, Ph.D.: (Conservation International) Visionary leader able to motivate every level of conservationist to support the greater good of many species, including primates; one of the first academic primatologists to become concerned with the welfare and conservation of primates. Finalist for the 2012 Indianapolis Prize. 

Attaullah Pandrani(Save the Nature Organization) Marine biologist striving to improve nesting conditions of Pakistani sea turtles, protect mangrove trees as a natural habitat, and reduce hunting and trapping threats.

Michael Phillips(Turner Endangered Species Fund) Montana state senator and co-founder of the Turner Endangered Species Fund; working to restore imperiled mammals, birds, fishes, amphibians and plants with an emphasis on wolf recovery. 

Nicolas Pilcher, Ph.D.: (Marine Research Foundation) Champion for sea turtles and marine life in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands; dedicated over 25 years to conserve the abundance and diversity of marine life, working to bridge cultures, religions, governments and conservation practitioners alike.

Gay Reinartz, Ph.D.: (Zoological Society of Milwaukee) Internationally recognized for her work on behalf of the bonobo in both the wild and captivity, working tirelessly to protect and conserve this endangered great ape that is found only in the remote heartland of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Carl Safina, Ph.D.: (Blue Ocean Institute) Brought ocean conservation into the environmental mainstream by using science, art and literature to inspire a "sea ethic." Finalist for the 2010 Indianapolis Prize.

Joel D. Sartore(National Geographic Magazine) Renowned photojournalist with mission to give vanishing species and habitats a voice before they're gone forever; co-founder of The Grassland Foundation. 

John Seidensticker, Ph.D.: (Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute) Pioneered the use of radio telemetry to study cougars in North America and was co-leader of the team that captured and radio-tracked the first wild tigers in Nepal; dedicated to tiger science and conservation for nearly 40 years. 

Claudio Sillero, Ph.D.: (Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme, University of Oxford) Founder and executive director of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme, keeping watch over Africa's rarest and most endangered carnivore.

Tara Stoinski, Ph.D.: (Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and Zoo Atlanta) One of the world's foremost experts in gorilla behavior and cognition, with over 13 years of dual-expertise in wild and zoo-housed populations. 

Ronald Swaisgood, Ph.D.: (Institute for Conservation Research, Zoological Society of San Diego) Trained field biologist serving San Diego Zoo Global as director of applied animal ecology, overseeing recovery programs for species such as California condors, burrowing owls, Caribbean rock iguanas, mountain yellow-legged frogs, giant pandas, rhinoceros, kangaroo rats and Pacific pocket mice.

Randall Wells, Ph.D.: (Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, Chicago Zoological Society) Program director of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, the world's longest-running study of a wild dolphin population. 

Romulus Whitaker(Madras Crocodile Bank & Centre for Herpetology) Devoted four decades of work to studying and conserving diverse reptiles and reversing both public and governmental opinion to one demanding conservation and appreciation. 

Patricia Wright, Ph.D.: (Centre Val Bio, Stony Brook University) Discovered the golden bamboo lemur in 1986, a species that was then unknown to science, which helped to catalyze the transformation of Madagascar's park systems, turning it into a model for global conservation efforts. Finalist for the 2012 Indianapolis Prize.