Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for Excellence in Cat Conservation

2011 Prize Winners – Urs Breitenmoser and Christine Breitenmoser-Würsten

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.

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2009 Prize Winner – Carlos Manuel Rodriguez

As Minister of Environment and Energy for Costa Rica, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez implemented visionary policies that succeeded in halting the nation’s rampant deforestation restoring critical habitat for jaguars. Among his many contributions to conservation, Rodriguez is perhaps best known for developing the concept of payment for ecosystem services. This groundbreaking strategy rewards communities for protecting native ecosystems by creating economic incentives through compensation. The strategy has led to the protection of vast ecosystems in Costa Rica, which currently attract about 1.9 million foreign tourists per year. Throughout his ministerial term, Rodriguez was a driving force for jaguar conservation in Costa Rica. In 2006, he was instrumental in presenting the Jaguar Corridor to the Comisión Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarrollo (CCAD; the Central American Commission for Environment and Development). The meeting resulted in unanimous approval at the Ministerial level and opened the door for crucial political support for the Jaguar Corridor Initiative throughout Central America. In his current role as vice president and director for Conservation International, Rodriguez advises governments on adapting payments for ecosystem services internationally, and works to create multinational alliances to further conservation on a global scale.

2007 Prize Winner – Dr. George Schaller

Since the 1950’s George Schaller has roamed through many lands observing wild beasts and conducting landmark long-term studies. These have massively deepened our understanding of wildlife in its habitat. Schaller’s land mark contribution and commitment to wild cat conservation came with the publication of The Serengeti Lion and his observations of predator prey relations in the Serengeti. In the years that followed George has worked with jaguars in the Brazilian Pantanal and snow leopard in the Hindu Kush, mountain gorilla in Central Africa and giant panda in Sichuan, he has rediscovered Saola in Laos, Warty pig in Vietnam and even located a herd of Tibetan red deer again thought to be extinct. This is just one of a large number of well earned and humbly accepted awards presented to George for his lifetime of dedication to protecting animals and their habitat.

2006 Inaugural Prize Winner – Dr. Alan Rabinowitz

Dr. Alan Rabinowitz has traveled extensively in the interest of research and conservation on a wide range of species, including tigers, jaguars, clouded leopards, and other large mammals. In addition to being a world authority on big cats, he has also helped pioneer the development of range-wide species conservation and he has driven the establishment of several protected areas, including the world’s first jaguar sanctuary in Belize and the world’s largest tiger reserve in Myanmar.

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