Washington, DC - A lobster fisherman from Marathon, Florida and a tiger conservationist and farmer from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, are this year's co-winners of the prestigious J. Paul Getty Wildlife Conservation Prize, the World Wildlife Fund announced today.
The annual prize, which carries with it an award of $100,000, is being shared by Tony Iarocci, a commercial fisherman considered a pioneer in marine conservation in the Florida Keys and Billy Arjan Singh, a farmer who has led the establishment of tiger reserves in India. Iarocci is the first commercial fisherman and the second American to win the prize.
"The Getty Prize, which WWF administers on behalf of the Getty family, recognizes conservation pioneers and their work," said Kathryn S. Fuller, president of WWF - US. "This year's awardees are role models for their bold leadership, untiring efforts and major accomplishments in wildlife and habitat conservation."
Tony Iarocci, a commercial fisherman for more than 30 years, is one of the world's most accomplished advocates for fisheries sustainability and well-designed, community-based marine protected areas.
Iarocci was instrumental in helping design and win governmental approval for the Tortugas Marine Reserve, now the largest fully-protected marine reserve in North America. Located in the remote waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the reserve is intended to safeguard the region's healthiest coral reefs and help replenish depleted fisheries throughout south Florida. Iarocci is also helping lead similar conservation initiatives in Alaska, Mexico and Nicaragua, and serves on both the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Advisory Council for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Earlier this fall, Iarocci received the prestigious Highliner Award from National Fisherman magazine, in recognition of his efforts to improve fisheries sustainability. Iarocci is the first commercial fisherman and the second American to be awarded the prize.
Billy Arjan Singh, who has devoted almost 60 years of his life to wildlife conservation, chose a career in farming as a young man. Conservation was a little known concept in the years shortly after India's independence in 1947. Singh established "Tiger Haven" on the outskirts of what is now the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, so that he could farm and observe wildlife in natural surroundings. Singh's love for the forests of Dudhwa led him to approach then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and seek declaration of a tiger reserve under the country's Project Tiger program. Largely because of his persistence, Dudhwa was declared a Project Tiger reserve in 1988. Today Dudhwa is the fulcrum of the Terai Arc, an area of high conservation importance that also protects significant species such as the rhinoceros, elephant, swamp deer, swamp partridge, Bengal florican, and hispid hare. The only tiger reserve in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Dudhwa forms an essential transboundary habitat link with Nepal that allows tigers to move across a large portion of the Terai. Singh has inspired many to follow in his footsteps through his books, which include Tara: The Tigress (1981), The Legend of the Man-Eater (1993), Tiger Haven (1998), Prince of Cats (2001), and Watching India's Wildlife (2004). Singh's personal courage--whether in facing poachers, grave physical risk, or controversy--is well known throughout India. Now 87, Singh continues to work in conservation.
Established in 1974 by the late J. Paul Getty, the prize recognizes conservation excellence and innovation by individuals and groups. Previous winners have included pioneering chimpanzee researcher Dr. Jane Goodall, famed British conservationist Sir Peter Scott, and the Charles Darwin Foundation. Nominees for the Getty Prize are selected by WWF and the winner is chosen by a jury of notable conservationists. The award carries with it national and international recognition and a cash prize of $100,000, which this year's winners will split. The prize, currently overseen by J. Paul Getty's son Gordon and his family, is intended to encourage conservation innovation and heighten public awareness of the need for conservation.