INDIANAPOLIS — Graceful, powerful, supremely adapted to life at high altitudes, this animal’s most dangerous attribute is its stunningly beautiful coat of spotted fur, a coat that has brought the species near to extinction. But the snow leopard has a champion in Rodney Jackson, Ph.D., a visionary conservationist working from the Himalayas to the mountains of Mongolia and Russia, who has been named one of six finalists for the $100,000 Indianapolis Prize. Jackson, director and founder of the Snow Leopard Conservancy, applies today’s technology to the problem of disappearing snow leopards by implementing new camera-trapping and genetic surveying techniques, which ultimately gives these graceful creatures a chance of survival.
The other Prize finalists are Gerardo Ceballos, Ph.D., leader in conservation strategy;
premier elephant expert Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Ph.D.; famed cheetah researcher Laurie Marker, D. Phil., Blue Ocean Institute founder Carl Safina, Ph.D. and Amanda Vincent, Ph.D., seahorse expert with the University of British Columbia.
“The passion and energy of these six finalists are the essence of the Indianapolis Prize. Their ability to connect conservation with the community has established hope for all species, including us,” said Indianapolis Prize Chair Myrta Pulliam.
“Studying snow leopards is not a passive endeavor. These elusive creatures do not give up their secrets easily,” said Don O. Hunter, Ph.D., team leader, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. “They demand boot time, strained lungs, routine hypoxia, poor rations and the inevitable time away from loved ones. But in spite of these hardships, Rodney is among the handful of field biologists in the world who finds the experience transformative.”
Studying snow leopards is extremely challenging; Jackson has endured long, bitter winters and dangerous terrain at altitudes above 12,000 feet to track and monitor these elusive creatures, and to teach local goat herders how to protect their flocks and coexist peacefully with the big cats. Jackson’s grassroots approach to research, conservation and education is helping to transform this magnificent big cat from a potential livestock predator to an economic asset throughout much of its 12-country range.
Born in South Africa, Jackson received his bachelor’s degree and doctorate from the University of London and his master’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He resides in the San Francisco Bay area.
The winner of the 2010 Indianapolis Prize receives $100,000, along with the Lilly Medal, to be awarded at the Indianapolis Prize Gala presented by Cummins Inc. The Gala is scheduled for September 25, 2010, at The Westin Hotel in Indianapolis.
The 2008 Indianapolis Prize was awarded to legendary field biologist George Schaller, Ph.D. Schaller’s accomplishments span decades and continents, bringing fresh focus to the plight of several endangered species – from tigers in India to gorillas in Rwanda – and inspiring others to join the crusade.
To learn more about each of the finalists, how you can support their work, and the Indianapolis Prize, please visit indianapolisprize.org.
The biennial $100,000 Indianapolis Prize represents the largest individual monetary award for animal conservation in the world and is given as an unrestricted gift to the chosen honoree. The Indianapolis Prize was initiated by the Indianapolis Zoo as a significant component of its mission to inspire local and global communities and to celebrate, protect and preserve our natural world through conservation, education and research. This award brings 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. It was first awarded in 2006 to Dr. George Archibald, the co-founder of the International Crane Foundation and one of the world’s great field biologists. In 2008, the Indianapolis Prize went to Dr. George Schaller, the world’s preeminent field biologist and vice president of Panthera and senior conservationist for the Wildlife Conservation Society. The Eli Lilly and Company Foundation has provided funding for the Indianapolis Prize since 2006.