Penguin expert wins Indianapolis Prize
The Indianapolis Zoological Society Inc. on Tuesday announced Pablo Borboroglu as the 2023 winner of the Indianapolis Prize, billed as the world’s leading award for animal conservation.
Borboroglu is the founder and president of the Global Penguin Society, which the zoo said has protected 32 million acres of penguin marine and terrestrial habitat. He is also the co-founder of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Penguin Specialist Group, which works to advance international penguin conservation action.
During a virtual announcement Tuesday, Borboroglu called receiving the award “powerful.”
“It legitimizes the work that I’ve been doing all my life to protect things,” he said. “And it also validates that the actions that we’re taking in conservation are aligned with the main priorities, the global priorities in conservation.”
The award “recognizes and rewards conservationists who have made significant progress in saving an animal species, or multiple species, from extinction.” Borboroglu will receive an unrestricted $250,000 award, and will be recognized at the Indianapolis Prize Gala in September.
“Dr. Pablo Borboroglu is responsible for major achievements in understanding penguin behavior and ecology,” Indianapolis Zoological Society CEO Rob Shumaker said in written remarks. “He has preserved millions of acres of critical penguin habitat, which is an astonishing achievement. He is a powerful, optimistic and expert voice for animal conservation and is extremely deserving of this year’s Indianapolis Prize.”
The zoo said when he founded the Global Penguin Society, Borboroglu discovered only six breeding pairs of penguins at the El Pedral colony in Argentina. By reducing human impacts and designating the area as a wildlife refuge, the area is now home to 4,000 pairs.
Borboroglu was also the leader of the creation of Blue Patagonia, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which protects 40% of the world’s population of Magellanic penguins. The reserve, which spans 200 miles of coastline and 7.6 million acres of land and ocean, is home to 67 species of animals, more than 120 species of birds and nearly 200 species of marine invertebrates.
Borboroglu said the award will be instrumental in supporting efforts to protect penguins and their habitat.
“Needing both land and sea, penguins face unprecedented threats requiring large-scale change,” he said. “Through this award, we hope to inspire and encourage people around the world to take decisive action in safeguarding the environment. It is only through our collective efforts that we can ensure our environment and its wildlife are able to thrive.”
He adds the award will also help open political doors for his work.
“Many conservationists like me, we work in developing countries, where the environment is not a priority; it’s always about the economy, other issues,” he said. “But this award, it is so recognized, is so prestigious, that is allowing us to open a lot of political doors. So they will pay attention to what we do, and I’m sure it will speed up a lot of our conservation plans that we have in hand.”
Borboroglu is the ninth Indianapolis Prize winner and the first from South America.
The remaining finalists for this year’s award will each receive $50,000. They will be recognized at the gala, along with Peruvian primatologist Fanny Cornejo, who last month was named the inaugural winner of the $50,000 Emerging Conservationist Award.
The gala will take place in downtown Indianapolis on Sept. 30.