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Behler Turtle Conservation Award

Behler Turtle Conservation Award

Honoring Excellence, Outstanding Contributions, and Leadership
in the International Chelonian Conservation and Biology Communities

The “Nobel Prize” of Turtle Conservation

John L. Behler [1943–2006]

Co-Presented by
Turtle Survival Alliance, IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group,
Turtle Conservancy, and Turtle Conservation Fund


Co-Sponsored by
Re:wild (formerly Global Wildlife Conservation), Chelonian Research Foundation,
Surprise Spring Foundation, Andrew Sabin Family Foundation,
George Meyer and Maria Semple, Brett Stearns, and Deborah Behler




The Behler Turtle Conservation Award
is a major annual international award honoring excellence in
the field of tortoise and freshwater turtle conservation and biology,
and leadership in the chelonian conservation and biology community.


Behler Turtle Conservation Award
Honorees  2006 – 2023

Award Honoree: John L. Behler, USA
Award Founders: Anders G.J. Rhodin, Sweden / USA and Rick Hudson, USA

2006 – 1st Award: Edward O. Moll, USA
2007 – 2nd Award: J. Whitfield Gibbons, USA
2008 – 3rd Award: Peter C.H. Pritchard, United Kingdom / USA
2009 – 4th Award: Gerald Kuchling, Austria / Australia
2010 – 5th Award: Bernard Devaux, France
2011 – 6th Award: John B. Iverson, USA
2012 – 7th Award: Anders G.J. Rhodin, Sweden / USA
2013 – 8th Award: Rick Hudson, USA
2014 – 9th Award: Richard C. Vogt, USA / Mexico / Brazil
2015 – 10th Award: Kalyar Platt, Myanmar
2016 – 11th Award: Eric V. Goode, USA
2017 – 12th Award: Peter Paul van Dijk, Netherlands / Malaysia / USA
2018 – 13th Award: Russell A. Mittermeier, USA
2019 – 14th Award: Shi Haitao, China
2020 – 15th Award: James O. Juvik, USA
2021 – 16th Award: Shailendra Singh, India

2022 – 17th Award: Vivian P. Páez, Colombia
2023 – 18th Award: Kurt A. Buhlmann, USA


The award is co-presented by the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group (TFTSG), the Turtle Conservancy (TC), and the Turtle Conservation Fund (TCF), the four organizations most closely tied to the turtle conservation legacy of John Behler. The award was established by Anders Rhodin and Rick Hudson in 2006, with the TSA and TFTSG as co-presenters from 2006 to 2013, and joined in 2014 by the TC and TCF as co-presenters. Currently, the award carries an honorarium of $5000, additionally supported by several co-sponsors, with the awardee determined through a broad-based nomination and selection process. It is widely considered the “Nobel Prize” of turtle conservation and biology.

The award honors and commemorates the memory and legacy of John L. Behler [1943–2006], former Curator of Herpetology at the Bronx Zoo, Wildlife Conservation Society, New York. John Behler was also Chair and Co-Chair of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group and a founding board member of both the Turtle Survival Alliance and the Turtle Conservation Fund, as well as a founding board member of the Chelonian Conservation Center, later renamed the Behler Chelonian Center in his honor by the more recently created umbrella organization, Turtle Conservancy. These four major turtle-focused conservation organizations that he either led or helped establish have joined forces to co-present the Behler Award as a way to continue to collaboratively honor his seminal contributions and inspirational leadership for each of them and the international turtle conservation and biology community. His legacy continues to inspire all of us.

The true spirit of the Behler Award is to honor John’s legacy and lasting memory. He gave tirelessly and passionately to help build an effective turtle conservation community, and always worked towards increased inclusiveness of people and organizations from diverse disciplines and backgrounds. He was first and foremost a conservationist at heart, and his great passion was freshwater turtles and tortoises; but it was his strong conservation ethic that motivated him. John moved comfortably in many circles, including among academics, biologists, zoo people, herpetoculturists, conservationists, regulatory officials, and land managers and outdoorsmen. John’s legacy will always be linked with turtle conservation and his clarion call to action when faced with the emerging evidence of the turtle extinction crisis that first motivated many of us to become more deeply engaged back in the 1990s. So in the spirit of honoring John Behler, the award celebrates the ideals that he stood for and bases its selection of honorees on those same principles.

In John’s own words, in describing the turtle extinction crisis and what it would take to overcome it, he said: “Despite problems conserving turtles, there are success stories. These have been long, arduous affairs, and for the most part, they have been the work of extraordinarily dedicated individuals, not legions of bureaucrats. The turtle wars will be fought and won by individual ‘turtle men’ and ‘turtle women’ who are on divine missions from the chelonian gods to save their species.” We commemorate his vision and inspirational words through the Behler Award, recognizing the tireless efforts of turtle people on their own passionate missions to save these species.

The award from 2006 through 2013 included an honorarium of $3000; in 2014 the award was raised to $5000 to reflect its increasing prestige and profile, and welcoming the increased organizational participation and generosity of the multiple co-presenters and co-sponsors. The generous co-sponsors of the 2023 Behler Award, in addition to the four co-presenters themselves (TSA, TFTSG, TC, and TCF), are Re:wild (formerly Global Wildlife Conservation), Chelonian Research Foundation, Surprise Spring Foundation, Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, and several individuals: George Meyer and Maria Semple, Brett Stearns, and Deborah Behler. Former co-sponsors of the award have also included Wildlife Conservation Society, Conservation InternationalChelonian Research Institute, World Chelonian Trust, and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Honorees deliver a plenary lecture on their turtle conservation efforts and accomplishments at the Annual TSA/TFTSG Symposium on Conservation and Biology of Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles, and receive the award in a presentation ceremony in the presence of a large gathering of peers and colleagues at the closing Symposium banquet.

In addition to primarily honoring the life-time achievements of more senior turtle and tortoise conservationists and biologists, the award also honors conservation efforts by younger mid-career individuals who are making major contributions to the field. Recognizing and celebrating the often tireless and dedicated efforts made by all these individuals is critically important, and the Behler Award provides prestigious validation for those who have demonstrated excellence and leadership on the front lines of not only global turtle conservation efforts, but also in the underlying biological and ecological studies that so importantly underpin these conservation goals. Further, the award hopes to inspire younger and rising turtle conservationists and biologists to follow in the steps of these honored leaders and to become increasingly prominent and effective leaders themselves.

Behler / Pritchard Awards Selection Protocol

Selection of the Behler Award is handled by the Behler / Pritchard Award Committee (BPAC). The BPAC is co-chaired by Anders Rhodin and Rick Hudson (award co-founders), and as of 2023 has three vice-chairs: Vivian Páez, Peter Paul van Dijk, and Andrew Walde, with these five individuals serving as the Executive Committee of the BPAC. The other BPAC regular members are appointed annually and include leadership from the four co-presenting organizations, the TFTSG, the TSA, the TC, and the TCF, other co-sponsoring organizations and individuals, a selection of prior Behler Award honorees, and selected members of the broader chelonian conservation and biology community. An annual call for Behler Award nominations goes out to the broad-based community of all members of the TFTSG and the Boards of Directors of the TSA, the TC, and the TCF, as well as the BPAC itself.

Each nominating individual is invited to nominate up to three ranked people for consideration to receive the Award; members of the various Committees and Boards and the BPAC itself are also eligible for nomination. A short justification of the specific reasons an individual is being nominated is required. All submitted nominations are awarded points (3 points for a # 1 ranking, 2 points for a #2 ranking, and 1 point for a #3 ranking), and then combined into a ranked listing of all nominees which is further discussed and assessed by the Executive Committee of the BPAC, and a final slate of the top shortlisted nominees submitted for voting by all BPAC members to determine the selected honoree, who is then honored at the annual TSA/TFTSG Symposium. A biographical article on the honoree is prepared for publication in the annual TSA Turtle Survival magazine, as well as being posted on the TFTSG website (www.iucn-tftsg.org/behler/).

Behler / Pritchard Award Committee 2023
(27 Members)

Anders Rhodin, Rick Hudson

Vivian Páez, Peter Paul van Dijk, Andrew Walde

Regular Members:
Craig Stanford, Pat Koval, Eric Goode, Hugh Quinn, Russ Mittermeier,
Matt Frankel, Maurice Rodrigues, John Iverson, Gerald Kuchling, Kalyar Platt,
Shi Haitao, Jim Juvik, Natalia Gallego-García, Camila Ferrara,
Luca Luiselli, German Forero-Medina, Tomas Diagne, Jordan Gray,
Brett Stearns, George Meyer, Deborah Behler, Sibille Pritchard



Turtle Conservation Appreciation Awards

Only living individuals are considered for the Behler Turtle Conservation Award, and since only a single Behler Award honoree is selected annually, yet there are very many worthy individuals in the greater turtle conservation and biology community, the Behler / Pritchard Award Committee has also established Turtle Conservation Appreciation Awards for selected individuals who are either:

(1) somewhat older or retired later-career individuals who may have also been under previous or current consideration for selection as a Behler Awardee, but may now appear less likely to be selected, but who have had major and significant Lifetime Achievements and made major contributions to the turtle conservation and biology communities, or

(2) recently deceased individuals of prominence and notable contributions to the turtle conservation and biology communities who had either been previously nominated for a Behler or Pritchard Award or were anticipated to be nominated, and therefore instead honored with a Posthumous Award.

These Pritchard and Posthumous honorees are selected via community-wide nominations (as for the Behler Award), voted on by the Behler / Pritchard Award Committee, and receive an Award Certificate and public recognition at the Annual Symposium (or if posthumous, to a surviving family member).

In 2020, with the passing of Peter C.H. Pritchard,
in honor of his iconic stature and major legacy in the community,
the Turtle Conservation Appreciation Award for Lifetime Achievements was renamed the

Pritchard Turtle Conservation Award

Honoring Lifetime Achievements in Turtle Conservation and Biology

Peter C.H. Pritchard [1943–2020]

Lifetime Achievement Honorees
2006 – 2019

2006 – 1st Award: Hugh R. Quinn, USA
2010 – 2nd Award: Bern W. Tryon, USA
2016 – 3rd Award: Peter C.H. Pritchard, United Kingdom / USA
2016 – 4th Award: Ian Swingland, United Kingdom
2017 – 5th Award: Justin D. Congdon, USA
2018 – 6th Award: Bruce J. Weissgold, USA
2019 – 7th Award: Kristin H. Berry, USA
2019 – 8th Award: Olga V. Castaño-Mora, Colombia

Pritchard Lifetime Achievement Honorees
2020 – 2023

2020 – 9th Award: John Cann, Australia
2020 – 10th Award: Linda J. Cayot, USA / Ecuador
2021 – 11th Award: Bonnie Raphael, USA
2021 – 12th Award: Don Moll, USA
2022 – 13th Award: Ronald J. Brooks, Canada
2022 – 14th Award: Robert T. Zappalorti, USA
2023 – 15th Award: C. Kenneth Dodd, Jr., USA
2023 – 16th Award: R. Bruce Bury, USA
2023 – 17th Award: Earl E. Possardt, USA
2023 – 18th Award: Elmar Meier, Germany


Turtle Conservation Appreciation Awards

Posthumous Honorees
2010 – 2022

2010 – John B. Thorbjarnarson, USA
2010 – Ray E. Ashton, USA
2015 – Subramanian Bhupathy, India
2016 – Hans-Dieter Philippen, Germany
2017 – Henk Zwartepoorte, Netherlands

2019 – Carl H. Ernst, USA
2019 – Olga V. Leontyeva, Russia
2019 – Joseph C. Mitchell, USA

2020 – Margaretha Hofmeyr, South Africa
2020 – Roger Bour, France
2021 – Walter Sachsse, Germany
2021 – Philip C. Rosen, USA
2021 – Chuck Schaffer, USA
2022 – Cecil R. Schwalbe, USA
2022 – Linda J. Allison, USA