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Biologist Carl Jones wins top prize for saving many rare species from extinction

  • On May 4, Welsh conservationist Carl Jones was awarded the prestigious Indianapolis Prize at the London Natural History Museum for his decades-long efforts to bring back several rare species from the brink of extinction.
  • Jones, who is Chief Scientist of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Scientific Director of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, was selected from among six other finalists.
  • He received an unrestricted $250,000 as prize money, and the Lilly Medal.

On May 4, Welsh conservationist Carl Jones was awarded the prestigious Indianapolis Prize at the London Natural History Museum for his decades-long efforts to bring back several rare species — such as the pink pigeon and the Mauritius kestrels — from the brink of extinction.

The Indianapolis Prize honors conservationists “whose achievements demonstrate a positive impact on an animal species or group of species that is likely to improve long-term sustainability.” The award is granted every two years, and is the largest individual monetary award given for animal conservation. Lemur expert Patricia Wright won the award in 2014.

Jones, who is Chief Scientist of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Scientific Director of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, was chosen as the winner from among six other finalists. He received an unrestricted $250,000 as prize money, and the Lilly Medal.

Biologist Carl Jones was awarded the 2016 Indianapolis Award.
Biologist Carl Jones was awarded the 2016 Indianapolis Prize. Photo courtesy of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

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

In the 1970s, for example, Jones went to Mauritius to save the Mauritius Kestrel. Jones helped boost their number from four individuals that were known to survive in the wild at that time to more than 300 over the next decade.

Similarly, he was instrumental in the recovery of the rare Mauritius parakeets (or echo parakeets). His efforts have increased parakeet numbers from around 10 individuals in the 1980s to more than 600 birds in 2015.

During his nearly 40 years of work in Mauritius, Jones has helped prevent the extinction of at least nine species, including the Mauritius kestrel, pink pigeon, echo parakeet, Rodrigues warbler and Rodrigues fody. He has also had great success in restoring populations and habitats of several reptile and mammal species.

“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,” Lee Durrell, Honorary Director for Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, said in the statement.

Jones added, “Winning the 2016 Indianapolis Prize is undoubtedly one of the highlights of my career. 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.”

Carl Jones's efforts boosted Mauritius kestrel nubers from 4 in the 1970s to more than 300 in a decade. Photo by Sam Cartwright, courtesy of Indianapolis Prize.
Carl Jones’s efforts boosted Mauritius kestrel numbers from 4 in the 1970s to more than 300 in a decade. Photo by Sam Cartwright, courtesy of Indianapolis Prize.
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