Successful birth of Arabian leopard cubs ‘new beacon of hope’ in Saudi bid to save species from extinction: Culture minister

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The birth of two Arabian leopard cubs has been hailed as a “new beacon of hope” in Saudia Arabia’s bid to reintroduce the critically endangered big cat back into the wild. (SPA)
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The birth of two Arabian leopard cubs has been hailed as a “new beacon of hope” in Saudia Arabia’s bid to reintroduce the critically endangered big cat back into the wild. (SPA)
Updated 01 August 2019

Successful birth of Arabian leopard cubs ‘new beacon of hope’ in Saudi bid to save species from extinction: Culture minister

  • The news marks a significant step in the RCU’s breeding program
  • During the initial 12-week period of the newborn leopards’ lives, they successfully bonded with their 10-year-old mother Hamms

ALULA: The birth of two Arabian leopard cubs has been hailed as a “new beacon of hope” in Saudia Arabia’s bid to reintroduce the critically endangered big cat back into the wild.
The Saudi Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) revealed that the male and female cubs, born on April 26 at the Prince Saud Al-Faisal Wildlife Research Center in Taif, had now been vaccinated after passing a crucial 12-week developmental milestone.
The news marks a significant step in the RCU’s breeding program to help preserve and eventually reintroduce the subspecies into the north-west of the Kingdom as part of its portfolio of Arabian Leopard Initiatives (ALI).
The commission’s charter aims to deliver a sensitive and responsible transformation of the AlUla region and protect its nature and wildlife.
During the initial 12-week period of the newborn leopards’ lives, they successfully bonded with their 10-year-old mother Hamms (which means “whisper” in Arabic), learned important behaviors and grew stronger in the seclusion of their den. The cubs will remain with their mother for the next 18 months to two years in line with global best practice for captive breeding programs.
Saudi Minister of Culture and RCU Gov. Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, said: “This is a historic moment in our efforts to reintroduce the Arabian leopard to the AlUla region.
“With fewer than an estimated 200 Arabian leopards remaining in the wild globally, this is one of the most critically endangered animals in the world, and these cubs represent a new beacon of hope for the renewal of a subspecies on the brink of extinction. It is our duty to protect, conserve and build population numbers to preserve the species from becoming a footnote of history.
“That is why the RCU is actively championing the revitalization of the Arabian leopard to support the future of this rare and majestic big cat that is native to AlUla,” the prince added.
“The birth of these two cubs will be the first of many as our specialized captive breeding program grows and develops – boosted by the support of local experts, as well as global partners like Panthera.”
The commission’s ALI combines several projects working toward the preservation of the subspecies including an extensive captive breeding and reintroduction program, and the establishment of the Global Fund for the Arabian Leopard. 
As a center of excellence, the RCU is establishing a steering committee with leading experts from around the world to enhance and inform ALI’s captive breeding, husbandry, veterinary and reintroduction practices in the existing breeding facility located in Taif.
The committee will also help guide the design of a state-of-the-art breeding center to be constructed in AlUla county and consult on habitat revitalization projects in the Sharaan Nature Reserve.
It was announced in February that the newly created Global Fund for the Arabian Leopard will have an initial endowment of $25 million (SR94 million), making it the largest fund in the world wholly dedicated to safeguarding the Arabian leopard. Currently in the strategic planning and operational set-up phase, the fund will be fully mobilized by the end of this year.
The news of the leopard cubs’ birth follows the signing in June of a partnership agreement between the RCU governor and Dr. Thomas Kaplan, chairman of the global wild cat conservation organization Panthera.
Saudi Arabia, through this partnership, has in turn joined the Global Alliance for Wild Cats, making a commitment to invest $20 million over the next 10 years.


Saudi figure skater nurtures Olympic dream

Malak Al-Shaya says when in the ice rink everything feels ‘magical’ around her. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 1 min 37 sec ago

Saudi figure skater nurtures Olympic dream

  • The 13-year-old hopes to emulate the Russian figure skaters Elena Radionova and Alexandra Trusova

JEDDAH: A Saudi teen who picked up ice skating three years ago at a friend’s birthday party is now dreaming of taking part in the Olympic Games.

“It all started at my friend’s birthday party three years ago where we ice skated and I fell in love with the sport. I started going every day after that. My mom signed me up for classes when she saw my love for the sport,” Malak Al-Shaya told Arab News.
She said: “My mom was the one that encouraged me. At that birthday party, my mom and the coach said I was a natural because I just went for it.”
She came 4th at the Houston Invitational 2020 in March. She said that she will work harder next year to win first place.
The 13-year-old hopes to emulate the Russian figure skaters Elena Radionova and Alexandra Trusova who inspired her and even to get to the Olympics.
“I’ll work on ice and off ice. I want to be like Alexandra Trusova, who makes it look so elegant,” she said.
Gliding on the ice, Al-Shaya said she feels like everything is “magical.”
The young figure skater is aware that the sport is not the most popular in the Kingdom, but she encourages those wishing to master it.
“Just go for it. If you are willing to work hard you can achieve anything,” she said.
She has received a lot of encouragement on social media to pursue her passion in figure skating.
Al-Shaya’s mother, Eman Al-Damegh, shared her daughter’s love story. “At that birthday party, it was the first time Malak ever ice skated. After that, my kids used to ask me to take them ice skating every day,” she said.

FASTFACT

• Malak Al-Shaya won 4th place at the Houston Invitational 2020.

• Al-Shaya started ice skating three years ago.

• The teen’s coach says her speed is impressive, and it takes them years to teach a student to reach the speed that she is naturally able to control comfortably.

She said that her daughter came from a background, which lacked the facilities for the sport, but was “a natural” straightaway.
“She had never been ice skating before, she started it at such a young age. We used to live in Qassim where there were no ice skating arenas at all,” said Al-Damegh.
She added: “The moment Malak set foot inside the rink, she just took off. I was so surprised, she didn’t hesitate at all, she was so daring that day. And there I was wondering what would happen on ice (before she started).”
According to her proud mother, Al-Shaya has all the capabilities required for this sport and possesses the sense of daringness that skating requires.
The teen’s coach told Al-Damegh that her daughter’s speed was impressive, adding that it takes them years to teach a student to reach the speed that she is “naturally able to control comfortably.”