A Welsh biologist received the Indianapolis Prize after using controversial technique to save rare kestrel eagle from extinction.
After being held under scrutiny for years for stealing the eggs from the nests of the world’s rarest kestrel eagle, a Welsh biologist, Carl Jones, has been awarded the highest honor of conservation by receiving the 2016 Indianapolis Prize of Conservation.
Jones was chosen for dedicating the last 40 years of his life to saving the Mauritius kestrel eagle and eight other species from going extinct. He was given the award and $250,000 at the Natural History Museum in London.
He first ventured to the Mauritius Island in east Africa in his early 20s. At the time, there were only four kestrel eagles left in the wild. Even after being told numerous times to stop the hopeless venture, Jones stayed.
“I went out there for one or possibly two years and I was told to pull out of the project and hand it over to the locals,” Jones told the Telegraph. “At the time they didn’t have the money or expertise to do it so that would essentially have meant closing it down.”
The controversy of his work started when he began”double-clutching”. This process involves snatching eggs from the eagle’s nests to hatch in captivity. The mother eagles then lay another set of eggs which can help double population sizes quickly.
Although it is used today, it was seriously frowned upon as a conservation technique by the science community in the 70s and 80s.
His methods proved successful and after a decade of hard work, the eagle’s populations grew to over 300. Today, there are nearly 400 living in the wild.
Jones’s work did not end there as he went on to help other species such as the pink pigeon, echo parakeet, and Rodrgues warbler. He gave them all a chance to make a comeback from the brink of being wiped off the planet.
He is also recognized for successfully implementing the idea of “ecological replacement”. Under this idea a new species is introduced to fill in the gap left in ecosystems by another species dying out.
Jones is now the Chief Scientist of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Director of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. With all of these accomplishments receiving the Indianapolis Prize is still the highlight of his career.
“I’m particularly proud of this award because it validates the conservation of animals, like the Telfair’s skinks and pink pigeons, that are not mega-vertebrates, but provide critically important ecosystem services nonetheless,” said Jones.