Urs and Christine both received their PhD in Zoology from the University of Berne, Switzerland. Urs started to work on the re-introduced populations of Eurasian lynx already for his MSc, while Christine worked on the impact of river regulation on riverine birds in the Alps. Since the late 1980s they have both been involved in carnivore conservation work in Switzerland and Europe. For better coordination of carnivore conservation activities, they founded the non-profit organization KORA (Coordinated research projects for the conservation and management of carnivores in Switzerland). Urs is also a founding member of the Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe, now a SSC Working Group. Besides leading the KORA, Urs has today a position as an assistant professor at the veterinary faculty, where he has been involved in rabies and is teaching epidemiology. Christine has specialized in conservation genetics and is conducting a project on the impact of the bottleneck on the population genetics of reintroduced lynx populations in Europe. They chair the IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group since 2001. In the past years, they have developed a series of tools for better communication and capacity development: a website (www.catsg.org) presenting a lot of information on the 37 cat species, the Digital Cat Library - a unique online resource of over 6,000 documents on cat conservation, they turned the newsletter Cat News into an attractive cat conservation magazine (www.catsg.org/catnews), and produced a series of species KIMS (Knowledge and Information Management System) that are available through the website. One of the big challenges of the Cat Specialist Group is the recovery of the Iberian lynx, the only cat species listed as Critically Endangered. The remaining two populations are very small and have no connection. 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 several projects with a strong component of local capacity development in different parts of the world. The Cat SG unites today 210 cat specialists from 57 countries. The IUCN/SSC Red List of Threatened Species provides a framework for the assessment of the status and conservation needs of the species. But how can we know what we know and that we do the right things? Only a tiny fraction of the free-living cats is monitored according to standardized methods, and many species have never been studied at all. The published scientific record alone is too incomplete for a sensible surveillance of the wild cats. The Cat Specialist Group is working towards a more comprehensive assessment of the status of the wild cats and consequently the better identification of conservation needs and the more effective implementation of conservation actions. The Cat SG is the only institution working worldwide for the sake of the cats, which unites scientists and researchers, officers of governmental agencies, and representatives of non-governmental conservation organizations. It is therefore the appropriate body to develop standards and concepts for the surveillance, conservation, and long-term maintenance of the wild cats.
Urs and Christine Breitenmoser won Panthera's Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for Excellence in Cat Conservation in 2011.