4 MAY 2016 • 11:22PM
A Welsh biologist once criticised for stealing eggs from the nests of the rarest bird in the world has been awarded the ‘Nobel prize’ of conservation after his controversial methods saved nine species from extinction.
Professor Carl Jones won the 2016 Indianapolis Prize - the highest accolade in the field of animal conservation - for his 40 years of work in Mauritius, where he saved an endangered kestrel from becoming the next Dodo.
When the 61-year-old first travelled to the east African island in the 1970s he was told to close down a project to save the Mauritius kestrel. At the time there were just four left in the wild, making it the rarest bird on Earth.
However he stayed, implementing the controversial techniques of captive breeding and a strategy known as ‘double-clutching’, which involved snatching eggs from the birds’ nests and hatching them under incubators, prompting the mothers to lay another set of eggs in the wild.
A decade later, the number of Mauritius kestrels had soared to over 300 and today there are around 400 in the wild.
The biologist has also been integral in efforts to bring other rare species back from the brink of extinction, including the pink pigeon, echo parakeet and Rodrigues warbler.
He is credited with championing the idea of "ecological replacement", a conservation tactic in which other species fill in important ecological roles once held by extinct species.
Prof Jones, originally from St Clears, near Carmarthen, was awarded the $250,000 (£172,000) prize at a ceremony at the Natural History Museum in London.
“As a young man in my 20s, I certainly didn't enjoy the stress and the tension of the criticism I received”