Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for the Next Generation in Wild Cat Conservation

Each year, Panthera will give a prize in the amount of $15,000 to a special individual under the age of 40 who has already made a significant contribution to conserving wild cats, and who represents the next generation of scientists, conservationists, policy makers, politicians and planners who will pave the future of wild cat conservation. This person has and will continue to work tirelessly to contribute, in a significant way, to the conservation of wild cats. Applications will be reviewed by the Cat Advisory Council, who will determine the final award recipient. The prize is to be used at the discretion of the recipient.  We will begin accepting applications for the 2014 Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize on June 1, 2014; the deadline will be September 1, 2014.

To work offline, please download the application instructions and the following templates:

2013 Prize Winner – Shivani Bhalla

Ewaso Lions founder, Shivani Bhalla, was awarded the 2013 Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for the Next Generation in Wild Cat Conservation. A fourth-generation Kenyan, Bhalla has carried out lion conservation initiatives in the Samburu-Isiolo ecosystem in northern Kenya since 2002. Beginning with research conducted for her Master’s thesis at Scotland’s Edinburgh Napier University, Bhalla produced the first accurate estimate of the lion population in Samburu, and demonstrated that lions move frequently between the region’s National Reserves and adjacent areas of human settlement - a recipe for increased human-lion contact and conflict.

Recognizing the significant need for mitigation of human-lion conflict plaguing the region, Bhalla founded Ewaso Lions in 2007 – a community-based lion conservation and research organization that now includes a team of 26 local Samburu employees. Today, Ewaso Lions monitors all lion prides in the region (including the Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves, along with adjacent community lands) and works with stakeholders to implement innovative conservation initiatives that reduce human-lion conflict and raise awareness about the importance of conservation.

Now on track to complete her PhD thesis at Oxford University, entitled “The ecology and conservation of lions within the Samburu-Isiolo ecosystem in northern Kenya,” and collaborating closely with other lion conservationists in eastern and southern Africa, Shivani Bhalla exemplifies the expertise, dedication and impact on the future of wild cats that the Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize was created to honor.

Learn more about Shivani and Ewaso Lions.

2012 Prize Winner - Mohammad Farhadinia

Born in Iran, Mohammad Farhadinia was selected as the recipient of the 2012 Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for the Next Generation in Wild Cat Conservation. Engaged in wild cat conservation since the age of 16 when he began compiling a dataset of observations on the Asiatic cheetah, Mohammad studied the Asiatic cheetah and the Persian leopard while completing his Bachelor and Master of Science degrees at the University of Tehran.

In 2001, Mohammad established the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of cheetahs and other wild carnivores. Since its founding, the Society has become an important player in Iran’s wildlife conservation efforts, with projects focused on the Asiatic cheetah, the Persian leopard, and the brown bear. In 2008, Mohammad joined the Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP) – a comprehensive conservation program established by Iran’s Department of the Environment (DOE), and carried out with Panthera, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the United Nations Development Programme. As a CACP consultant, Mohammad supervises research efforts, capacity building initiatives, student programs, and educational plans. He also leads Iran’s Persian leopard conservation efforts in the Caucasus, and has represented Iran in international meetings and symposia.

Recently, Mohammad was admitted to University of Oxford where he will pursue his doctoral degree at the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU). Through this degree, Mohammad plans to focus his research on a comprehensive ecological investigation of the Persian leopard.

Learn more about the Iranian Cheetah Project.

2011 Prize Winner – Dr. Amy Dickman

Ruaha Carnivore Project Director, Dr. Amy Dickman, was awarded the 2011 Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for the Next Generation in Wild Cat Conservation. As a young conservationist, Dr. Dickman has already accrued over 13 years of wild cat conservation experience. Dr. Dickman worked for nearly six years at the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia where she researched cheetah and leopard ecology, as well as methods to mitigate human-cheetah conflicts. After completing her M.S. and Ph.D., which focused on the determinants of human-carnivore conflict in Tanzania’s Ruaha landscape, Dr. Dickman joined the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) - a part of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology - as the Kaplan Senior Research Fellow in Felid Conservation. In this position, Dr. Dickman created the Ruaha Carnivore Project – a joint carnivore-ecology/human-carnivore conflict study – that works to gather data on carnivore ecology across the Ruaha landscape and develop community-driven techniques for effective conflict mitigation. The project is also very focused on training young Tanzanian scientists in order to develop the next generation of wild cat conservationists.

To date Dr. Dickman has published over 25 scientific papers and book chapters on big cat ecology and conservation. She is a member of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group, the African Lion Working Group, the Human-Wildlife Conflict Collaboration, and has experience in novel methods of big cat monitoring, such as the use of scat detection dogs. She also helped create the Global Cheetah Action Plan, Regional Conservation Strategies for cheetahs and African wild dogs in Eastern and Southern Africa, and National Action Plans for cheetahs and other carnivores in Kenya, Tanzania and Southern Sudan.

A full list of Dickman’s scientific publications can be found here.

2010 Prize Winner – Omar Antonio Figueroa

Born in Belize, Omar Antonio Figueroa serves as a Biological Field Scientist for Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative program in Belize. In 1997, he began his career in wildlife ecology as the National Coordinator for the Birds Without Borders-Aves Sin Fronteras Project, an international research, education and conservation project focusing on neotropical migratory birds. Later, in 2005, he obtained his Master of Science degree in wildlife ecology and conservation from the University of Florida. His thesis project represents the first and only Global Positioning System study on Belize’s regionally imperiled Jabiru Stork. Through Panthera’s Kaplan Graduate Scholarship Program, Omar is currently completing his Ph.D. at the University of Florida, with a particular focus on jaguar ecology. In addition, Omar has been awarded various other international fellowships and research grants, including the Fulbright/Organization of American States, Dexter and Compton Fellowships, Jennings Scholarship, Disney and Columbus Zoo Conservation Grants, International Foundation for Science, Foundation for Wildlife Conservation and Protected Areas Conservation Trust Research Awards. Omar gives frequent lectures on jaguar ecology at international and regional conferences within Central and South America and in July of 2009, was nominated to serve as a Government Senator by the Prime Minister of Belize.

2009 Prize Winner – Bayarjargal Agvaantseren

Ms. Bayarjargal (Bayara) Agvaantseren is the Executive Director and founder of the Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation (SLCF), a national conservation NGO that works closely with the Snow Leopard Trust and Panthera to implement conservation and research programs in Mongolia. Bayara began her career in cat conservation in 1996 when she joined Tom McCarthy's snow leopard research team as a translator, working specifically with herders to understand human-snow leopard conflicts. The insight she gained during herder interviews across snow leopard range in Mongolia prompted her to develop a community-based conservation program now known as Snow Leopard Enterprises (SLE). SLE's model allows semi-nomadic herders to increase their income through handicraft production in exchange for their tolerance of snow leopards. The program has received accolades from the global conservation community, and Bayara has helped to replicate the model in Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan. Bayara has also assisted in formulating Mongolia’s National Snow Leopard Policy and most recently played a key role in initiating the first ever long-term ecological study of the species in South Gobi, Mongolia. Perhaps Bayara’s most valuable quality is her ability to forge strong partnerships at many levels, be it with remote herder communities, national and international NGOs, or diverse government agencies. She is a driving force for snow leopard conservation in her native Mongolia and across the region.


2008 Prize Winner – Gianetta Purchase

Dr. Gianetta (Netty) Purchase began her career in wild cat conservation assessing a cheetah translocation project at Matusadona National Park as an MSc student at the University of Zimbabwe.  Netty was then awarded a Beit Trust Scholarship to pursue her PhD at Aberdeen University in the UK. There she focused her doctoral work on competition between lions and spotted hyenas in Matusadona National Park and Liuwa Plains National Park in Zambia. Upon completing her degree, Netty helped to establish a cheetah conservation project with the Marwell Zimbabwe Trust aimed at mitigating conflict between farmers and cheetahs. More recently she has become involved in conservation management, attempting to link research with management to ensure that informed decisions are made regarding conservation policy in the region. Netty’s integrated approach to conservation considers wild landscapes, competition between species, and relationships between human and animal communities. It is this approach, combined with her significant contributions to the field and her commitment to continue working toward conservation that have earned her the 2008 Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for the Next Generation in Wild Cat Conservation.


2007 Prize Winner – Ivan Seryodkin

Dr. Ivan Seryodkin is a rare breed in Russia.  Unlike many well educated Russians who leave the country and take their expertise elsewhere, Ivan has chosen to keep his in Russia. His intimate and lifelong knowledge of the Russian Far East has afforded him a unique perspective on the conservation of wild cats in the area. Although Ivan’s expertise and training in conservation vary from the Grey Whale to the Brown Bear, his recent work on monitoring the population status of the far eastern leopard and Amur tiger coupled with his observations of the landscape level changes to the region and understanding of its effect on wild cats as well as his intimate cultural insight into the people of the region and their effect on wild cats and their prey has all contributed to him winning the 2007 Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for the next generation. We were most honored that Dr. Seryodkin was able to attend the Felid Conference held in Oxford in October 2007 to receive his prize.

Main Grants and Prizes page.