RIYADH: Saudi Arabia celebrated the first Arabian Leopard Day on Thursday. The Kingdom established the special occasion — which will take place annually on February 10 — in order to raise awareness of the endangered big cat.
“We want people to mark Arabian Leopard Day and engage with activities to raise awareness of, and help to protect, these majestic big cats,” Amr Al-Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla, said.
“It is a sad reality that the Arabian leopard is critically endangered. Ongoing threats to its natural habitat highlight the pressing need to step up conservation efforts that are so vital to the species’ long-term survival,” he continued.
Minister of Culture and Governor of AlUla Prince Badr bin Farhan Al-Saud and Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, the Saudi ambassador to the US and founder of Catmosphere signed an MoU on Thursday to support the RCU’s Arabian Leopard Conservation Program, which Prince Badr explained is “at the heart of extensive sustainable-development plans for the wider AlUla region.”
Catmosphere is a non-profit foundation that aims to raise awareness of the many endangered cat species around the world, including the Arabian leopard.
“The signing of this new MoU supports Catmosphere’s mission to secure a future for big cats, including the Arabian leopard,” Princess Reema said. “It builds momentum around regional conservation efforts with a focus on supporting the RCU as it strives to achieve its far-reaching ambitions to reintroduce the species to the wild.”
The RCU and Catmosphere hope to further strengthen the regional efforts to protect the Arabian Leopard and ensure its future growth through the MoU.
“This agreement also significantly strengthens existing partnerships with entities concerned with the conservation of natural fauna and flora, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature,” Prince Badr said.
Under the agreement, the two entities will work together on research projects to create sustainable and innovative events, including campaigns and outreach initiatives to safeguard the future of the Arabian leopard.
Through Arabian Leopard Day, the Kingdom aims to raise awareness of endangered species and create global conversations around initiatives that aim to protect the Arabian Leopard in Saudi Arabia and across the region, and to highlight the importance of preserving and protecting endangered animal species globally.
Neighboring countries including Oman and the UAE will show their support for the first Arabian Leopard Day by projecting images of endangered big cats onto major landmarks including Burj Khalifa and Saudi Arabia’s Expo 2020 pavilion in Dubai and Sultan Qaboos University Road in Muscat. The big cats will also appear on Riyadh’s King Faisal Foundation building, Jeddah’s King Road Tower, Adeer Tower in Al-Khobar, and Elephant Rock in AlUla.
Government entities are also showing their support in the Kingdom by incorporating the official Arabian Leopard Day logo on their websites and social media.
To further raise awareness, The Royal Commission of AlULA has created social media initiatives featuring influencers and using the hashtag #ArabianLeopardDay.
The commission also encouraged young children to show their support by publishing coloring books featuring the endangered Arabian leopard.
The leopard was once common in the Kingdom, but overhunting and a lack of natural prey led to the predator all-but disappearing from the wild.
But thanks to conservation efforts such has the Leopard Breeding Center in Taif, which recently witnessed the birth of a female cub, the Arabian leopard is making a comeback. Still, reintroducing the species to its natural habitat and providing it with the necessary surroundings and prey to thrive will take time.
The RCU has committed $25 million to the Global Fund for the Arabian Leopard as an initial endowment and has designated five nature reserves spanning 12,500 square kilometers as a safe habitat in which the endangered species will one day roam freely. It is also working with experts including Panthera and the IUCN to implement its plans.