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Defender of Madagascar’s lemurs to receive Seacology Prize

August 24, 2023

We’re excited to announce that Dr. Jonah Ratsimbazafy will receive the 2023 Seacology Prize this October. The longtime conservationist has dedicated his life to protecting the endangered lemurs and other species of his native Madagascar.

Dr. Ratsimbazafy, whom a colleague calls “a force of nature for conservation in Madagascar,” grew up as a city boy. But the first time he saw one of his island’s iconic lemurs—those big-eyed, long-tailed primates that dance through the trees—it was love at first sight. On the forest treks where he first encountered lemurs, he also saw traps set by people hunting them for meat. He also saw that lemur habitat was rapidly being destroyed, and that many species faced the very real possibility of imminent extinction. That led him to his life’s goal: “I feel a personal responsibility towards ensuring no more lemurs go extinct.”

Dr. Ratsimbazafy’s conservation efforts take several forms. His research contributes to the store of knowledge about lemurs, providing information necessary for effective management. He is also an outspoken proponent of policies that will save Madagascar’s lemurs. That makes him unpopular with corrupt politicians, powerful mining and timber interests, and criminal enterprises. His life has been threatened more than once.

Finally, he is a tireless grassroots campaigner for Madagascar’s precious ecosystems. He could have a job anywhere, but he returned to Madagascar, one of the world’s poorest nations, to work on community conservation. He wants the Malagasy people, not outsiders, to take responsibility for protecting the island’s unique biodiversity. The NGO he established, which now has more than 20 Malagasy staff, works with desperately poor communities to explain conservation and teach alternative livelihoods. He talks to young schoolchildren (lemur puppets in hand), university students, and illiterate farmers to convince them of the need to act now—before it’s too late.

We will present Dr. Ratsimbazafy with the Seacology Prize on Monday, October 9 at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, California. As always, the Seacology Prize Ceremony is free and open to the public, but space is limited, so we encourage you to reserve your seat today.