28 Nov

Christine & Urs Breitenmoser Receive 2011 Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for Excellence in Cat Conservation


Panthera is pleased to announce that the 2011 Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for Excellence in Cat Conservation has been awarded to wildlife conservationists Urs Breitenmoser and Christine Breitenmoser-Würsten. This prize is awarded biennially to senior conservationists who have dedicated their lives to the conservation of wild cats. This year, Panthera acknowledges a couple that has devoted their careers to advancing science and the conservation of wild cats, and who have made exceptional progress in increasing international coordination in wild cat conservation and expanding access to vital information on wild cats across the globe.

Urs Breitenmoser and Christine Breitenmoser-Würsten have been active in carnivore conservation in Switzerland and throughout Europe since the late 1980s. Both received their doctorates in Zoology from the University of Berne, Switzerland where Urs focused his work on the Eurasian lynx. At the same time, Christine studied the impact of river regulation on riverine birds in the Alps.  In 1996, Urs and Christine founded the non-profit organization KORA - Coordinated research projects for the conservation and management of carnivores in Switzerland. KORA has become an umbrella organization for many of the Breitenmoser’s projects, as well as a resource for researchers, students and wildlife practitioners. Aside from leading KORA, Urs holds a position as an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Veterinary Virology, University of Bern, where he is active in rabies research and teaches epidemiology. Christine has specialized in conservation genetics and is currently conducting a project on the impact of the bottleneck on the population genetics of reintroduced lynx populations in Europe.

Since 2001, Urs and Christine have jointly chaired the IUCN/Species Survival Commission (SSC) Cat Specialist Group. In this position, the pair developed a series of tools for improving communication and developing capacity, including designing the CatSG website - www.catsg.org - which houses information on the world’s 37 wild cat species, and the Digital Cat Library - a unique online resource of some 8,000 documents on cat conservation. Urs and Christine have also produced a series of species KIMS (Knowledge and Information Management Systems) that are available through the website, and have reformed the newsletter, Cat News, into a well-respected and popular cat conservation journal. 

Today, the Cat Specialist Group unites 205 cat specialists from 57 countries and serves as the only institution working worldwide for wild cats that unites scientists and researchers, officers of governmental agencies, and representatives of non-governmental conservation organizations.  The Cat SG is working toward a more comprehensive assessment of the status of wild cats to better identify conservation needs and more effectively implement conservation action on their behalf. 

In recent years, Urs and Christine have been involved in strategic conservation planning for several cat species in Europe, Africa and Asia. They have initiated numerous projects throughout the world incorporating strong local capacity development components into conservation. In addition to receiving the 2011 Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for Excellence in Cat Conservation, Urs and Christine also received the WWF Award for Conservation Merit for their work in 2006, and the IUCN/SSC Chair’s Citation of Excellence Award in 2008. Today, the couple sits on Panthera’s Cat Advisory Council.

Learn more about Urs Breitenmoser and Christine Breitenmoser-Würsten.