FZS's Africa director Markus Borner has been selected as a finalist to receive the world’s leading conservation award, The Indianapolis Prize. Borner is particularly well known for his impact on the one place on earth that would indisputably not be sustainable without his long-term efforts: the tremendous wilderness of the Serengeti ecosystem, which harbors the species that has been his focus for more than 40 years – the increasingly rare threatened black rhinos.
Cultural differences, adverse conditions and challenges that others considered impossible – none of these have discouraged Markus Borner, Ph.D., head of the Africa Program of the Frankfurt Zoological Society in Tanzania, from fighting to conserve biological diversity and ecosystems in Africa. He is particularly well known for his impact on the one place on earth that would indisputably not be sustainable without his long-term efforts: the tremendous wilderness of the Serengeti ecosystem, which harbors the species that has been his focus for more than 40 years – the increasingly rare threatened black rhinoceros. It’s because of his singular contributions to saving the wildlife of Africa that Borner is one of the six finalists contending for the $100,000 Indianapolis Prize.
The other Prize finalists are Steven C. Amstrup, Ph.D., senior scientist at Polar Bears International; Rodney Jackson, Ph.D., founder of the Snow Leopard Conservancy; Carl Jones, Ph.D., scientific director of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and International Conservation Fellow at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust; Russell A. Mittermeier, Ph.D., president of Conservation International; and Patricia Wright, Ph.D., director at the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments.
“These conservationists’ long-standing commitment and die-hard perseverance to protect endangered species and their environments embodies the mission of the Indianapolis Prize. We are honored to recognize their efforts,” said Indianapolis Prize Chair Myrta Pulliam.
“No living person has played as crucial of a role as Markus Borner in African conservation. His work on re-introducing rhinos to the Serengeti has helped restore all the species to East Africa’s canonical savanna wilderness. He has also played a pivotal role in preventing a proposed road from splitting the Serengeti in two,” said Andrew Dobson, professor at Princeton University. “His influence extends well beyond Serengeti, to the mountains of Ethiopia, the great central forests of the Congo, and the woodlands and bushlands of Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. It is hard to think of 10 people who have done as much for African conservation as this one very modest, yet totally dedicated, individual.”
Beginning his career nearly 40 years ago, Borner has dedicated his life to the protection of endangered species and sustainable development of protected areas. He has pioneered research on what was then the totally unknown Sumatran Rhino and never hesitated to shoulder ambitious, complex and also seemingly hopeless rhino rehabilitation projects – and raised millions of dollars in funding for this purpose. All his efforts culminated in the on-going release of 32 black rhinos from South Africa back into their natural habitat, the Serengeti. This marks the world’s largest rhino reintroduction project, initiated in 2010 with the translocation of the first five rhinos. Further, his work helped to strengthen endangered populations of mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, wild dogs and elephants in many of Africa’s protected areas.
Shifting his focus to Africa, Borner has worked with national authorities and governments on all levels – from park ranger to president – and coached the African residents on establishing and maintaining a number of highly ambitious and successful conservation projects. He has set up efficient cross-border cooperation between various stakeholders, establishing rhino conservation projects involving four different governments at the same time.
Born and raised in Thalwil, Switzerland, Borner received his baccalaureate degree from Zurich Technical College, his master of science from Zurich University, and his doctorate from Basel University with field work done in Sumatra, Indonesia. He currently resides and works in the Serengeti, Tanzania, where he has lived for decades.
The winner of the 2012 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 29, 2012, at The JW Marriott in Indianapolis.
The 2010 biennial Indianapolis Prize was awarded to legendary elephant advocate Iain Douglas-Hamilton. His accomplishments span decades and continents, bringing global attention to the issue of blood ivory and inspiring others to join the battle against poachers and traders.
To learn more about each of the finalists, how you can support their work, and the Indianapolis Prize, please visit www.indianapolisprize.org.