Professor Carl Jones Wins 2016 Indianapolis Prize

Indianapolis Prize officials will announce today Professor Carl Jones as the Winner of the world’s leading award for animal conservation. In recognition of his major victories in saving animal species from extinction, Jones joins the ranks of Indianapolis Prize Winners, some of the most accomplished conservationists on Earth.

Officials from the Indianapolis Prize will announce Jones as the Winner of the Prize at a celebratory ceremony with Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust today at the London Natural History Museum at 2 p.m. GMT/ 9 a.m. EST. Additionally, the event will include an expert panel discussion about the future of animal conservation.

As the 2016 Indianapolis Prize Winner, Jones, Chief Scientist of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Scientific Director of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, will receive an unrestricted $250,000 cash award and the Lilly Medal.

“The Indianapolis Prize has two primary functions,” said Michael I. Crowther, President & CEO of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, which administers the award. “First, it rewards and honors animal conservationists who are actually achieving notable successes. Secondly, it provides them with a more effective platform from which they can tell the stories of their work to a wide range of audiences … especially the public.”

Spanning almost 40 years of work in Mauritius, Jones has brought back at least nine species from the brink of extinction — including the Mauritius kestrel, pink pigeon, echo parakeet, Rodrigues warbler and Rodrigues fody, and has worked to restore the populations of many more species. Through programs that implement hands-on animal husbandry techniques developed in contemporary zoological institutions, Jones has delivered results that are truly awe-inspiring: of the 63 bird, mammal and amphibian species worldwide that have been down-listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as a result of conservation initiatives, he has led the recovery efforts for six of them.

“I know of no other conservationist who has directly saved so many species from extinction,” said Dr. Simon N. Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, who nominated Jones for the award.

“Winning the 2016 Indianapolis Prize is undoubtedly one of the highlights of my career,” said Jones. “It’s a great accolade not just for me, but for Gerry Durrell and the people who have made this work possible over the years. I’m particularly proud of this award because it validates the conservation of animals — like Telfair’s skinks and pink pigeons — that are not megavertebrates, but provide critically important ecosystem services nonetheless.”

A Legacy Lives On

Jones is a declared disciple of the iconic British animal conservationist, Gerald “Gerry” Durrell, and like his mentor, he has a talent for bold missions.

In the late 1970s, Jones traveled to the Republic of Mauritius — the island home of the famously-extinct dodo bird — to save another species that conservationists before him considered a lost cause: the Mauritius kestrel. At the time, just four kestrels remained in the wild, making it the rarest bird in the world. Jones not only prevented the Mauritius kestrels’ extinction, but also expanded their number substantially by releasing more than 300 captive-bred birds over one decade.

“Carl is living proof that by having the courage, talent and vision to take small steps, we can win victories for species large and small,” said Lee Durrell, MBE, Ph.D., Honorary Director for Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. “Not only has Carl built upon the legacy left by Gerry, but he’s created his own — one that will endure for generations to come. We at Durrell are thrilled to have his remarkable work recognised by the Indianapolis Prize.”

A Commitment to Species and Ecosystems

Jones recognises the need to restore entire ecosystems, rather than just simply focusing on a species. When he approached the various politicians and decision makers in Mauritius with evidence of his success breeding kestrels, they responded, “We now need to have somewhere to look after them.” This spurred the expansion of Jones’ work from restoring individual species to restoring habitats.

In 1994, he served as a key advisor to the Mauritian government to establish Black River Gorges National Park, the country’s first. As a result of Jones’ vision, work to restore nine highly-degraded Mascarene offshore islands, including Round Island, one of the world’s most important and long-standing island restoration projects, is currently underway.

Jones is credited with championing the idea of “ecological replacement,” a conservation tactic in which species outside of their historic range act as analogues to fulfil important ecological roles once held by extinct species. His projects include Aldabra tortoises, first brought to the island at the request of Charles Darwin in the late 1800s.

Hope for the Future of Conservation

“Professor Jones’ achievements on the islands of Mauritius bear wide-ranging global significance,” said Crowther. “His conservation approach includes techniques that can be adapted and scaled for ecosystems in other areas of the world where species are at risk of extinction. His captive breeding and reintroduction programs now serve as models for what can be achieved elsewhere.”

Jones is committed to training and inspiring young Mauritians to build on his legacy and the island’s conservation capacity. As a charismatic leader, Jones grew his program team in Mauritius into a conservation organization in its own right — now the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF). Today, MWF is one of the region’s foremost conservation NGOs. Over the last 30 years, more than 800 people have trained alongside Jones, and many now are working professionally in conservation or biology.

Born and raised in Wales, Jones received his masters and doctorate from the University of Wales in Swansea. He currently splits his time between Wales and Mauritius for his work.

Jones will be formally honoured at the 2016 Indianapolis Prize Gala presented by Cummins Inc. on Oct. 15, 2016 in Indianapolis. He was selected by a jury of distinguished conservation leaders from a respected pool of Finalists, who each will receive $10,000. They include:

Joel Berger, Ph.D.: (Wildlife Conservation Society, Colorado State University)

Dr. Berger strives to save flagship species like the muskox in the Arctic tundra and the wild yak of the alpine on the Tibetan Plateau. Beyond studying migration paths for large mammals, Berger’s actionable conservation models help researchers understand populations as modern metaphors for climate change. Berger was also a Finalist for the 2014 Indianapolis Prize.

Dee Boersma, Ph.D.: (Penguin Sentinels, University of Washington Department of Biology)

Penguins, as sentinels of our oceans, have no greater champion than Dr. Boersma. For more than four decades she has studied Galapagos penguins, showing how these seabirds are indicators of environmental change. She has followed the lives of Argentina’s Magellanic penguins to help strengthen protections and conservation efforts for colonies, using her science to prevent harvesting, reduce oiling and secure marine protected areas.

Rodney Jackson, Ph.D.: (Snow Leopard Conservancy)

One of the world’s foremost experts on the elusive, endangered snow leopard, Dr. Jackson endures harsh winters and dangerous terrain to track these “ghosts of the mountain” and teach locals how to coexist peacefully with them. Jackson was also a Finalist for the 2008, 2010 and 2012 Indianapolis Prize.

Carl Safina, Ph.D.: (The Safina Center at Stony Brook University)

A crusader for the ocean and its creatures, Dr. Safina works to effectively connect humans with marine species. He has pioneered innovative approaches to studying species ranging from reef coral to whales, and established a sustainable seafood program, bringing science-based criteria to consumers. Safina was also a Finalist for the 2010 and 2014 Indianapolis Prize.

Amanda Vincent, Ph.D.: (Project Seahorse, The University of British Columbia)

Among the first to study seahorses underwater, Dr. Vincent helped put the world’s 47 species on the global conservation agenda. Initiating the first seahorse conservation project, her programs have led to 35 no-take marine protected areas, the first global export controls for marine fishes and a bold new citizen science venture, iSeahorse. Vincent was also a Finalist for the 2010 Indianapolis Prize.

A History of Indianapolis Prize Winners

The Indianapolis Prize was first awarded in 2006 to George Archibald, Ph.D., the co-founder of the International Crane Foundation. The 2008 Winner was George Schaller, Ph.D., known as one of the founding fathers of modern 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, Patricia C. Wright, Ph.D., founder of Centre ValBio, became the first woman awarded the Indianapolis Prize for her dedication to protecting Madagascar’s lemurs.