RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has declared Feb. 10 as “Arabian Leopard Day” in a bid to raise awareness of the endangered big cat.
The move, which was announced by the Council of Ministers last month, is part of the Kingdom’s efforts to protect the species, which is now classed as critically endangered, from extinction.
The Arabian leopard is the chief predator in Saudi Arabia and plays a major role in the Kingdom’s culture. But overhunting and a lack of natural prey means there are now fewer than 200 left in the wild.
The Ministry of Education is keen to encourage young people to get involved with the new scheme, and in a show of support, pupils from the Second Public Kindergarten of AlUla and other schools have been tweeting their pictures of the big cats along with positive messages like, “We love the Arabian leopard.”
In December 2020, Prince Badr Bin Farhan, the minister of culture and governor of the Royal Commission for AlUla, established the Global Fund to Protect the Arabian Leopard from Extinction in the Sharaan Nature Reserve. Its aim is to sustain the leopard population and its prey, and protect its natural habitat.
***********Images of the Arabian Leopard were projected onto buildings and monuments across Saudi Arabia and the UAE on Feb.10. View our gallery of striking images here.**********
In recent years, the commission and the National Center for Wildlife have been working on a number of initiatives to protect the big cat. Among these is expanding a breeding program within the Sharaan reserve.
Also, last year, Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US, launched the nonprofit foundation Catmosphere to raise awareness of the many endangered cat species around the world, including the Arabian leopard.
The Kingdom also works closely with Panthera, which is devoted to the conservation of the world’s wild cat species.
The Arabian leopard lives in high mountains and is native to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman and the UAE. Anyone found hunting the animal in the Kingdom faces a fine of SAR400,000 ($106,000) — rising to SAR30 million for repeat offenders — and up to 10 years in prison.