Story | 21 Jun, 2022

IUCN Species Survival Commission Chair is awarded with the Wolfgang Kiessling International Prize for Species Conservation

American Humane, the US' first national humane organization and the world’s largest certifier of animal welfare practices, today announced that Dr. Jon Paul Rodríguez, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, is the recipient of the inaugural Wolfgang Kiessling International Prize for Species Conservation. The “Kiessling Prize,” created in honor of Wolfgang F. Kiessling, the founder of Loro Parque and globally acknowledged leader in the conservation space, recognizes those who achieve significant positive change in the field of conservation practice, theory and research.

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“American Humane is thrilled to establish the Kiessling Prize – honouring those who are leading the way in the field of conservation,” said Dr Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. “This year’s recipient, Dr Rodríguez, has made tangible, demonstrable contributions to saving the world’s magnificent animals and is a valiant advocate for good zoos and aquariums who are on the frontlines working to save species on the brink of disappearing forever. We are honoured to bestow upon him this prestigious award.”

As the world’s animals face what scientists call a “Sixth Mass Extinction,” with up to one million species in foreseeable danger of disappearing forever, extraordinary efforts to preserve the creatures of the Earth are more vital than ever – as are the scientists, researchers and advocates who devote their lives to these efforts. The Kiessling Prize will be awarded annually to recognize individuals who embody Mr Kiessling’s exceptional leadership, vision and commitment to conservation and the critical role that zoos and aquariums play.

Dr Rodríguez was selected from a pool of dozens of candidates representing 16 countries across five continents who lead conservation projects that span the globe in virtually every aspect of conservation – including threat analysis, habitat restoration, genomics, species reintroduction, technology and innovation, and community-based solutions. Dr Rodríguez has an undergraduate degree in biology from Universidad Central de Venezuela, a PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology from Princeton University, and a Certificate in science, technology and environmental policy from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He chairs the IUCN Species Survival Commission, is a professor at the Center for Ecology of the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Investigations and is a founder, past board member and president of Provita. 

“There is simply no higher purpose than that to protect and preserve our world’s most precious asset – animal life,” said Wolfgang Kiessling, president and founder of Loro Parque and Loro Parque Foundation. “We are grateful to Dr Rodríguez for dedicating his life to animal conservation.”

The Wolfgang Kiessling International Prize committee is led by Wolfgang Kiessling, Christoph Kiessling, Cybell Kiessling, Dr Javier Almunia, Dr Robin Ganzert and Brad Andrews. The committee screened all applicants, ultimately choosing Dr Rodríguez to be awarded the Kiessling Prize and a grant of US $80,000 to further his work to make significant contributions to the practical application, research and theory of species protection. He will be recognized at the 2022 Kiessling Prize Awards Gala on Friday, June 24 in Washington.

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Founded in 1877, American Humane has been First to Serve™ the cause of animals and for 145 years has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in the humane movement. For more information or to support our lifesaving work, please visit