The Indianapolis Prize is one of the leading conservation awards given in the world. It was established by the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc. to bring the world’s attention to the cause of animal conservation and the brave, talented and dedicated men and women who spend their lives saving the Earth’s endangered animal species. The program draws attention to the important work of animal conservationists protecting species and creating successful conservation methods that ensure future generations will live in a flourishing and sustainable world. Given out every two years, the Indianapolis Prize awards $250,000 to a conservationist who has achieved major victories in advancing the sustainability of an animal species or group of species.
The winner of the Indianapolis Prize for 2018 is Dr. Russ Mittermeier, who has been responsible for protecting hundreds of species and millions of acres of critical habitat around the world. He is best known for his leadership in championing the concept of Biodiversity Hotspots — critical areas known for their biological diversity, endemic species and severe level of threat. By promoting these hotspots, Mittermeier helped give the global conservation community a new framework to make more targeted, strategic investments in the places that sustain the majority of all life on earth. Today, Biodiversity Hotspots remain one of the most important conservation developments of the last quarter century.
Harrison Ford and Russ Mittermeier at the 2018 Indianapolis Prize.
Mittermeier’s resume also boasts impressive accomplishments for single species and groups of species, too. Through his more than 40 years of leadership as chair of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission’s Primate Specialist Group, primates have become a priority group for conservation worldwide. In addition to primates, Mittermeier has a lifetime love of reptiles, particularly tortoises and freshwater turtles. That’s why nearly 40 years ago, he was instrumental in the creation of another IUCN specialist group focused on this group. He has been involved in the description of more than 20 species new to science — including three turtles, seven lemurs, four tarsiers and seven monkeys — and he even has eight species named after him by colleagues.
While the Prize showcases the incredible work of scientists in the field, like Mittermeier, it oftentimes takes an ambassador to inspire and encourage the public to find their own role in conservation efforts, both locally and globally, and to create conversations regarding wild things in wild places. That’s why the Indianapolis Prize created the Jane Alexander Global Wildlife Ambassador Award to recognize this dedicated advocacy and outreach, and the inestimable contributions of a very few remarkable men and women who are changing the future by sharing their passion for our planet’s wild wonders with others.
The 2018 Jane Alexander Global Wildlife Ambassador is Harrison Ford. A dedicated supporter of Conservation International for more than 25 years, Ford believes nothing is more important than preserving the environment. Through his extensive work, whether patrolling the Hudson River by helicopter or trekking through the forests of Indonesia to understand the unsustainable palm oil crisis affecting species like orangutans, including young apes at rescue and rehabilitation centers in Nyaru Menteng, his hands-on approach has led him on worldwide excursions alongside respected scientists and experts.
Harrison Ford pictured in the field with the 2018 winner.
Ford’s passion for wildlife conservation is evident and actionable, including extensive, hands-on work both in the field and in the boardroom. Whether patrolling the Hudson River by helicopter to get a bird’s-eye view of polluters, or taking viewers to Indonesia to understand the challenges of deforestation in Showtime’s Years of Living Dangerously, he is a true hero for the planet.
Both of these men along with other finalists were recognized for their work at the Indianapolis Prize Gala on Saturday, September 29. Part of the Mara Elephant Project team along with our core funder, the Sidekick Foundation, was proud to attend this event to celebrate these conservation champions.
Part of the MEP team at the Indianapolis Prize Gala.