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What is the Indianapolis Prize? 

It began as a question: What can we do that will really make a difference to saving the lives of endangered and threatened animals all over the world? Financial support is important, but could we give more? What amount would make a real impact on the conservation of animals that are in danger of disappearing from the Earth forever? How do we make an impact on hearts and minds?

Those questions led to the concept of the Indianapolis Prize, an initiative that would approach the issue of animal conservation in a whole new way. The Prize would combine significant financial support with programs that build emotional and intellectual support, one person at a time, over many years and several generations. It would combine a monetary award large enough to have a serious impact on an individual conservationist with programs that would inspire and educate the public about the true heroes of conservation and their dedication, and ultimately, their victories in the constant battle to save wildlife and wild places from extinction.

The Indianapolis Prize awards $250,000 to the most successful animal conservationist in the world, while five Finalists each receive $10,000. Granted biennially, this award was established 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. ​

Heroes in the Field

The Indianapolis Prize recognizes and rewards conservationists who have achieved major victories in advancing the sustainability of animal species. Placing the Winner and Finalists​ on the pedestal usually reserved for sports and entertainment stars, the impact can be measured by the successes of these men and women working selflessly for wild things and wild places, and by the changes in the lives of countless others inspired by their victories. Over the years, more than 140 nominees have shared their journeys — protecting animals large and small, discovering new species and bringing populations back from the very brink of extinction. 

A Spectacular Celebration

The presenting of the Indianapolis Prize and the Lilly Medal​ takes place during the biennial Indianapolis Prize Gala ​presented by Cummins Inc. During this black tie affair in downtown Indianapolis, the Winner and Finalists are honored for their selfless dedication, scientific expertise and lasting success, while an influential audience is captured by an impactful evening of storytelling and emotion. 

During this evening committed to the preservation of wild things in wild places, the recognition goes beyond scientists in the field. Through the Jane Alexander Global Wildlife Ambassador Award​, a celebrity is honored for achievements and advocacy as a public voice on behalf of species conservation

This spectacular night is a victory for all animal conservation enthusiasts and a win for Indianapolis' efforts to bring international attention to this great cause. 

Influence in Indianapolis and Beyond

The Prize is just one of the many ways the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc. advances animal conservation, locally and globally. 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. This program and award represents the vitality and commitment of the Indianapolis community's dedication to make a difference to our natural world. In its decade of outreach, the Prize has spread news of these heroes' stories, bringing conservation into the public conversation. Special events​ connect world renowned conservationists with influential individuals, emerging leaders, prospective scientists and youth.