$20 million deal signed to save Arabian leopard population

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The Arabian leopard faces an extremely high risk of extinction. (Shutterstock)
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Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, minister of culture and governor of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula, has signed an agreement with the chairman of Panthera. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 09 June 2019
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$20 million deal signed to save Arabian leopard population

  • Royal Commission for Al-Ula committed to helping protect and develop wildlife in region

JEDDAH: A $20 million deal to save Arabian leopards has been signed between the Royal Commission for Al-Ula (RCU) and Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization.
The Arabian leopard population is critically endangered, meaning it faces an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild, according to the definition provided by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Panthera President Dr. Fred Launay said the Arabian leopard subspecies was estimated to number fewer than 200 in the wild, with its population driven down in recent years due to loss of habitat and prey, followed by persecution in livestock areas.
The signing ceremony was held at Ashar in Al-Ula county.
The RCU will join The Global Alliance for Wild Cats with a commitment to investing more than $20 million over the next 10 years to conservation measures, with a focus on the Arabian leopard, which is indigenous to Al-Ula.
Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, the minister of culture and RCU governor, said: “The signing of the agreement is a major milestone in our shared ambitions to reintroduce the Arabian leopard population in the region and join global partners to support the preservation of these wild cat populations worldwide.
“It is our duty to protect, conserve and build the population numbers to preserve the species from becoming a footnote of history.
“Our partnership with Panthera will help ensure that populations in other countries around the world are preserved before they reach the levels of endangerment faced today by our precious native big cats.”
RCU CEO Amr Al-Madani said that Al-Ula was chosen as the venue for signing the deal because the conservation of the Arabian leopard was a major part of the commission’s commitment to helping protect, enhance and develop wildlife in the region.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Royal Commission for Al-Ula will join The Global Alliance for Wild Cats with a commitment to investing more than $20 million over the next 10 years to conservation measures, with a focus on the Arabian leopard, which is indigenous to Al-Ula.

• Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to preserving wild cats and their critical role in the world’s ecosystems.

• Both the royal commission and Panthera share a deep-rooted passion for conservation.

“Arabian leopards were native to the Al-Ula area in the recent past alongside other species and we are committed to investing in breeding programs to help increase their numbers with the aim of eventually being able to reintroduce them back into their natural habitat,” he told Arab News.
“The RCU has created the Sharaan Nature Reserve to provide a sanctuary for the protection, preservation and reintroduction of endangered species native to Saudi Arabia and plans to develop further protected areas in the county.
“Our ambition is to create thriving, ecologically rich environments that can support big cat species such as the Arabian leopard.
“Our partnership with Panthera — a global authority in the preservation of big cat species worldwide — will help us achieve this.”
There will be a global fund focused on the protection and enhancement of remaining wild populations, captive breeding programs, international collaborations, community-based conservation projects and scientific research to support the future of this rare species.
“Being able to create a future where magnificent Arabian leopards can once more roam freely within the Sharaan Nature Reserve we are developing is one that we cannot wait to see. Such a beautiful natural landscape as Al-Ula is a fitting home for some of the world’s most magnificent animals,” he added.
Panthera Chairman Dr. Thomas Kaplan said the launch of the Arabian Leopard Initiatives (ALI), announced by the RCU, was proof that individuals could alter the trajectory of a species away from extinction and toward rebirth.
“I am particularly grateful that the RCU has not only chosen to invest in bringing back the Kingdom’s own leopards, but has also joined — together with Indian, Chinese, Emirati, and American partners – in Panthera’s Global Alliance for Wild Cat,” he told Arab News.


Saudi sources deny ‘unsubstantiated’ reports of permitting alcohol

Updated 16 June 2019
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Saudi sources deny ‘unsubstantiated’ reports of permitting alcohol

  • “The leadership has made it clear from day one; it is simply not happening,”SCTH source tells Arab News
  • The SCTH is responsible for licensing and rating hotels and restaurants

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has no plans to allow the sale or public consumption of alcohol, a senior government source has told Arab News.

The official with access to relevant decision-makers categorically denied “unsubstantiated” media reports in some international and regional news outlets.

“If you read the fake news, you will notice it is all based on hearsay and tweets by accounts known to have a questionable agenda when talking about the Kingdom,” he said.

“As the country moves forward with its reform plans, we expect much speculation and attempts by critics to hold us back. And while people are allowed to speculate and criticize, their speculation should not be treated as the truth.”

A second source at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) also denied such reports. “The leadership has made it clear from day one; it is simply not happening,” he told Arab News. “I have not heard of any plans to allow alcohol in major cities, free zones or new projects.”

The SCTH is responsible for licensing and rating hotels and restaurants. Any plans for the sale or consumption of alcohol would have to go through the commission for implementation. 

Saudi Arabia has witnessed substantial social reforms over the past three years, such as the curbing of the previously unchecked power of the religious police, reopening cinemas and allowing women to drive.

There has also been a major shift on previously prohibited public entertainment and gender mixing. International artists including Mariah Carey, Yanni, Andrea Bocelli, Enrique Iglesias and Black Eyed Peas have all performed.

Tourism projects have included pop-up versions of international restaurants such as Signor Sassi, Nusr-Et and Nobu. None has served alcohol.

“Officials have repeatedly said all changes were and will always be in line with Islamic teachings and traditions,” the senior source told Arab News.