Indianapolis Prize finalists come from all corners of the globe

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We now know the six finalists for the Indianapolis Prize, the world's largest award for animal conservation.

The winner will get $250,000 this year, to be used to further their work. The prize committee picked the final six from 39 people nominated this year.

Meet the finalists

Wherever animals live, or plants grow, conservationists are usually not far away. They work in places we have heard of - and in places we haven't.

Those in the running for the Indianapolis Prize are also winning the battles they fight.

"These aren't just people who are struggling vainly and they say 'At least I tried hard,' these are people who have actually made a difference in the sustainability of wild things and wild places," said Indianapolis Zoo CEO Mike Crowther.

The six finalists for the Indianapolis Prize have different approaches that they employ in different parts of the world.

They include Russell Mittermeier, the leader of a group called Conservation International, which does its work in places like New Guinea and Brazil, and Patricia Wright, a social worker-turned conservationist who rediscovered a type of lemur thought to be extinct in the jungles of Madagascar.

"We didn't know if they were alive or not in 1986 and then we found them and they are alive and well today," Wright said.

Other finalists are Carl Jones, who has helped the Republic of Mauritius save endangered species and bring back ecosystems that were on the verge of disappearing. He uses science, while the Blue Ocean Institute's Carl Safina uses scientifically-based fictional stories to make people care about the animals he is trying to save.

"Any issue in the ocean that you want to talk about, you can get to with a albatross as a traveling companion," Safina said.

Wildlife Conservation Society scientist Joel Berger travels with the Arctic Musk-oxen to track the effects of climate change on different species in the Arctic, while Mexican scientist Gerardo Ceballos helped pass a law protecting over 40,000 endangered animals and thousands of acres of pristine habitat.

"By creating these reserves, we are protecting so many plants and so many species that are unique to Mexico," said Ceballos.

Whoever wins the award this year will be the fifth honoree - the committee has honored a conservationist every other year since 2006. Past winners have worked with animals as diverse as elephants, cranes, big cats, and polar bears - people who have given voice to species of animals that can't speak for themselves and won political victories to protect them and their environment.

Their victories may come in far-flung places, but through things like the Indianapolis Prize, Hoosiers can also play a part.

"People who get exposed to wildlife through the Indianapolis Prize and the Indianapolis Zoo tend to become advocates for conservation," Crowther said.

A big name conservationist will get the money this fall, but the real point of the Indianapolis Prize is to give the rest of us knowledge, both of their work and the importance of what they do where we live.