Six finalists unveiled for $250K Indianapolis Prize

The finalists for the 2023 Indianapolis Prize: (clockwise from top left) Christophe Boesch, Pablo Borboroglu, Gerardo Ceballos, Biruté Mary Galdikas, Karen Eckert and Gladys Kalema-Zikusok. (Images courtesy of the Indianapolis Zoo)

The Indianapolis Zoological Society Inc. on Wednesday unveiled the six finalists for the Indianapolis Prize, billed as the world’s leading award for animal conservation.

The award—the winner for which will be announced in May—recognizes conservationists who “have achieved major victories in saving an animal species or group of species.” The Indianapolis Zoological Society operates the Indianapolis Zoo.

The finalists were chosen by a nine-person committee with ties to the scientific and conservation communities, the zoological society and the local community.

“The victories achieved by this diverse group of people are remarkable and deserve our attention,” Indianapolis Zoological Society CEO Rob Shumaker said in a media release. “They have dedicated decades of their lives to making an authentic difference for many animal species and demonstrate that one person has the power to make a difference.”

The winner of the Indianapolis Prizes receives $250,000, with the remaining finalists each receiving $50,000. This year’s winner will receive the award during the Indianapolis Prize Gala on Sept. 30.

The 2023 Indianapolis Prize finalists are:

Christophe Boesch (Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology; Wild Chimpanzee Foundation, Germany) — A finalist for the 2021 Indianapolis Prize, Boesch is a primatologist dedicated to providing alternatives to bushmeat and applying new technology to great ape conservation, decreasing strain on wild chimpanzee populations. The zoo said he uncovered the effects of rapid deforestation across sub-Saharan Africa and promoted new areas for protecting the remaining chimpanzee populations in Guinea.

Pablo Borboroglu (Global Penguin Society, Argentina) — Borboroglu is the co-founder and leader of the Global Penguin Society, an international conservation coalition for the world’s penguin species. He works to improve penguin colony management through the creation of large, protected areas, including 32 million acres of ocean and coastal habitat.

Gerardo Ceballos (Institute of Ecology, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico) — A finalist for the Indianapolis Prize in 2010, 2014 and 2021, Ceballos is a champion for jaguars in Mexico, conducting the first country-level jaguar census. Ceballos developed successful conservation strategies for endangered mammals in North America, including the black-footed ferret. The zoo said he also was a key proponent in the passage of the Mexico’s Act for Endangered Species, which now protects more than 40,000 animals.

Karen Eckert (Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network, WIDECAST, USA) — As the executive director of WIDECAST, Eckert promotes the recovery and sustainable management of sea turtle populations in more than 40 nations and territories. The zoo said she has helped protect six species of endangered sea turtles and mobilized community and government support in Caribbean nations to fully protect sea turtles.

Biruté Mary Galdikas (Orangutan Foundation International, USA) — The co-founder of Orangutan Foundation International, Galdikas is an orangutan researcher who first documented the long orangutan birth interval and recorded more than 400 types of food consumed by orangutans, providing unprecedented detail about orangutan ecology, according to the zoo. She has contributed to the release of more than 1,000 rehabilitated orangutans into the wild and has rescued and relocated an additional 200 wild orangutans into the wild.

Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka (Conservation Through Public Health, Uganda) — Kalema-Zikusoka promotes conservation by cultivating an understanding of how humans and wildlife can coexist in protected areas in Africa. She is the founder of Conservation Through Public Health, an organization promoting biodiversity conservation by enabling people and wildlife to coexist by improving health and livelihoods in and around Africa’s protected areas.

The Indianapolis Zoological Society this year will also present the inaugural Emerging Conservationist Award to recognize conservationists, biologists and scientists under 40 “working to make strides in saving animal species from extinction.”

The 10 finalists for the award were unveiled last September; the winner will be announced next month and will also receive the award—and the $50,000 prize that comes with it—at the Sept. 30 gala.

Dr. Amanda Vincent was the 2021 Indianapolis prize winner, honored for her work in seahorse conservation. She was supposed to receive the award in 2020, but the presentation was delayed a year due to the pandemic.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.