JEDDAH: Lizards, crocodiles and snakes may not be everyone’s idea of cuddly animals, but according to the two partners behind Reptile Land — Saudi Arabia’s first reptile zoo — the cold-blooded creatures get a bad rap.
“They are not the fearsome monsters that a lot of people seem to think they are,” Kane Tison told Arab News.
Tison, a British national, and Saudi national Faisal Malaikah channeled their love of animals, especially reptiles, into a business partnership behind Reptile Land.
“I am just so proud of what we have done. It was a huge achievement for us to see people admiring and complimenting us because of the zoo we built,” Tison said.
Reptile Land was part of the Jeddah Season and is located in the Jeddah Jungle zone. The zoo is divided into two parts: One for animals that cannot survive the city’s brutal heat and need to be kept in controlled temperatures, and the other for those more suited to the desert climate.
Tison said that the zoo was built to a tight deadline, and the team had to work day and night to make it come to life.
Now the Kingdom’s first reptile zoo is out to offer visitors “something new,” he said.
“Our goal is just to educate people and show them that reptiles are not the fearsome monsters that a lot of people think they are.”
All animals in the zoo are used to human interaction and pose no threat to visitors, Tison added.
Visitors entering the site can see various species of lizards, snakes and crocodiles held in separate enclosures that offer the animals a miniature version of their natural habitat.
Teams are present at each enclosure to answer visitors’ queries, with researchers also available to offer further information.
Among the zoo’s inhabitants is a rare albino crocodile, one of a white-and-pink species that was hunted almost to the point of extinction before authorities intervened. There are now fewer than 200 albino crocodiles surviving around the world, conservation experts believe.
The zoo is also home to big lizards and tortoises, which are kept outdoors in natural surroundings, including ponds and edible plants.
The size and specifications of each enclosure have been thoroughly researched and are based on European animal welfare standards.
“When we came up with the concept, we had to explain to people that it is something unique, and you can create beautiful enclosures and be creative. It isn’t just a snake in the box. It is a proper zoo, where animals are interacting and are present in their natural environment,” Tison said.
As Tison gave the Arab News team a tour of the zoo, he kept a close eye on the animals, at one point instructing staff carry two young tortoises to another enclosure because older animals were not allowing them to eat.
Staff were also told to reduce the amount of food offered to one lizard, which was showing early signs of obesity.
“For each species that we work with, there is a lot of reading and background information that takes forever, but is absolutely necessary,” Tison said.
“Every single animal that we have here requires hours of research to learn about the temperature, humidity and environment that is required for each species.”
The zoo is also hoping to protect reptiles that are unique to Saudi Arabia, such as the Arabian Uromastyx, or spiny-tailed lizard, and desert monitor lizards.
Located in Jeddah, Reptile Land is a Saudi Arabia's first reptile zoo that Briton Kane Tison and Saudi national Faisal Malaikah created to show to the public that the cold-blooded creatures are "not the fearsome monsters that a lot of people think they are." The zoo is also home to big lizards and tortoises, which are kept outdoors in natural surroundings, including ponds and edible plants. All animals in the zoo are used to human interaction and pose no threat to visitors, according to Kane Tison.
RIYADH: Thousands of medical professionals and industry leaders are heading to Riyadh for this year’s Global Health Exhibition.
The conference is being held at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center from Sunday to Tuesday under the patronage of Minister of Health Fahad Al-Jalajel.
It is expected to attract more than 10,000 specialists and 250 companies from 30 countries.
The exhibition provides opportunities for visitors to meet fellow professionals and policymakers, and coincides with large investments by Saudi Arabia into healthcare under its Vision 2030 reform plan.
The forum will host conferences on public health, integrated care, and the future of medical laboratories and radiology.
The event will also launch the Leaders Forum, which will bring healthcare leaders and government officials together to discuss digital transformation and efficiency.
The GHE attracted thousands of healthcare professionals and companies in 2018 to 2019 and virtually in 2020 to 2021.
Saudi Arabia’s Al-Baha to double Shadawi coffee production
Over 1,000 new jobs, tourism boost expected, says agriculture official
Farmers provided funding, irrigation equipment and seedlings
Updated 06 October 2022
Al-Baha plans to double its production of its famous Shadawi coffee beans, a move that would create jobs and income for the region, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
Al-Baha is home to more than 200 farms that have over 22,000 trees growing beans of the highest quality, SPA reported.
There is room for growth, with an overall area of 1.6 million square meters available that has the capacity for 300,000 trees.
Fahd bin Muftah Al-Zahrani, director of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture in the region, said: “Coffee production will increase by 100 percent. It will also create 1,000 new jobs. It will have a business, training, and exhibition center, making the region a distinct agricultural tourism destination.”
Al-Zahrani said the mountainous terrain requires careful cultivation to allow the trees to flourish.
The ministry has started providing farmers with access to water sources, and tanks for storage with the capacity ranging from 60 to 240 tons.
Farmers have also been supported with modern irrigation equipment and seedlings. This initiative has so far benefitted 122 farmers.
In addition, the ministry is providing financial support for small farmers through its Rural Program, which will help them produce, manufacture and market the coffee beans.
Saudi Red Crescent Authority courses benefit 113,000
Updated 06 October 2022
RIYADH: The Saudi Red Crescent Authority has successfully organized 918 training courses and awareness lectures across the Kingdom, benefitting more than 113,000 people this year, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.
On the occasion of World Teacher’s Day, Abdulaziz Al-Suwaine, the authority’s official spokesperson, said: “The authority is keen to spread the culture of first aid in educational institutions and introduce people to ways to deal with cases of sickness that require urgent intervention before the arrival of the emergency teams.
“This aims to save more lives and alleviate suffering, which would strengthen the health safety means in communities and educational facilities. Therefore, the authority held numerous awareness-raising training courses and lectures in these institutions.”
Of the 214 training courses organized at educational institutions, the Qassim region had the highest share with 52. Meanwhile, the Eastern region received 704 awareness lectures.
“The authority has previously launched several awareness-raising initiatives. The most significant of these initiatives was ‘A Safe School,’ which aims at training all those working within the educational system, be it teachers, administrative employees or students, to introduce them to the basics of first aid. The initiative included the provision of a set of training courses and lectures that suit different age groups,” Al-Suwaine said.
How tech is revolutionizing breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in Saudi Arabia
Breast cancer diagnoses have increased fivefold over 17 years owing to improved screening
Breakthroughs in detection using artificial intelligence could help further improve cancer care
Updated 30 min 1 sec ago
JEDDAH: Technological advancements in the early detection and treatment of breast cancer are radically improving the chances of survival, recovery, and quality of life for women in Saudi Arabia, according to health experts.
Breast cancer is among the biggest challenges facing health systems worldwide. Studies have shown that a girl born today has a one-in-eight chance of developing breast cancer during the course of her lifetime.
Women diagnosed with breast cancer worldwide in 2020.
According to the World Health Organization, there were 2.3 million new breast cancer cases and 685,000 deaths in 2020. By the end of that year, 7.8 million women had been diagnosed within the past five years, making it the world’s most prevalent cancer.
Over the last three decades, the number of breast cancer diagnoses has risen, mainly due to the increased use of screening, early detection, and better overall public awareness of self-checking and reporting.
In Saudi Arabia, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women aged over 40. However, more than 50 percent of cases are detected at a late stage, compared to 20 percent in Western countries, which means the Kingdom has a higher mortality rate.
In most cases, breast cancer does not develop clear symptoms in the early stages. Symptoms usually start to appear only after a tumor begins to grow. But, if detected early, the average recovery rate can be as high as 96 percent.
There are several factors associated with delayed diagnosis. These include age, poor awareness of self-examination and symptoms, social taboos, fear of stigma, and the effectiveness of public health campaigns.
According to a recent study, titled “Breast cancer stage migration in Saudi Arabia: Examining the influence of screening,” published in the Global Journal on Quality and Safety in Healthcare, 2,463 breast cancer cases were diagnosed in the Kingdom between January and December 2017.
It found that breast cancer accounted for 17.7 percent of all cancers reported in Saudi citizens, and 30.9 percent of all cancers recorded among women of all ages.
However, the study also showed that the diagnosis rate had increased fivefold over a period of 17 years, which could be attributed to an improvement in breast cancer awareness and screening programs in the Kingdom.
“A national screening program in the Kingdom was launched in 2012 and targeted women above the age of 40, ten years younger than those of western countries,” Dr. Timor Al-Alshee, a breast oncology consultant at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Jeddah, told Arab News.
“Though we don’t know the reasons behind early detection in the Kingdom per se, public health awareness campaigns have immensely changed the way the community sees and understands the disease, but we have a long way to go and efforts are being made to increase awareness every year. But it’s still not enough.”
Al-Alshee said more women are getting regular mammograms, especially those with a family history of breast cancer.
“When it comes to breast cancer, it’s no secret about the implications of late detection and what makes people more comfortable today with their diagnosis is how advanced medicine has recognized there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach,” said Al-Alshee.
“Today, we have the tools to personalize a treatment plan and it all starts with getting a mammogram.”
Mammography is one of the greatest innovations in breast cancer care, as it is the only screening technology proven to decrease the breast cancer mortality rate and an essential tool for breast cancer detection.
Today, breakthroughs in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer with the help of new technologies, particularly artificial intelligence (AI), are improving care even further.
Nearly two years ago, the Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA) began looking into the integration of AI into the breast-cancer screening pathway and has since created an AI system solution that can analyze mammography images and detect abnormalities in scans.
In coordination with the Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH), the SDAIA launched the first phase of the AI system at the Global AI Summit in Riyadh this September.
The system can triage routine mammography exams with a high degree of sensitivity, to support radiologists and oncologists by detecting positively malignant tumors.
With an all-Saudi team, 70 percent of whom are women, the SDAIA has cooperated with specialists to validate the results and to ensure that the AI system is integrable and can be quickly adopted across all systems.
“In its initial phase, the AI system is used in cooperation and is limited to two entities: The National Program for Breast Cancer Detection under the MOH and the Seha-Virtual-Hospital,” the SDAIA told Arab News.
“We seek to make the system available on a national scale, which will require enhancements to scale it up and develop further through the help of local partners. The system is currently working on the screening phase and we’re working to add more features to help with the national efforts to screen 4 million women (above 40 years of age) in the Kingdom.”
Mammograms acquired through population-based breast cancer screening programs, such as Saudi Arabia’s National Program for Breast Cancer Detection, can produce a significant workload for radiologists.
Healthcare providers usually meet to discuss cancer cases and evaluate information to determine a diagnosis, the best treatment, and care plan for an individual patient. This process can take several weeks.
"We’re looking at an 80:20 ratio where 80 percent of the cases can be excluded by the same and the other 20 percent will be the main focus for physicians eventually,” the authority said.
With the AI model system, the screening time will be drastically reduced, and with further enhancements and developments provided by national developers, additional features can be added to the system to increase innovation.
“By coordinating with specialists, we’re training the algorithms to for example detect pathologically proven cancers by mimicking human behaviors and practices. We’re using screening data, diagnostic data, investigations, and more to train the system. The accuracy of AI should exceed the accuracy of radiologists in some cases.”
A common concern for screening efficacy is tissue density. Women with dense tissue have a higher risk of breast cancer misdiagnosis, making it harder for radiologists to see cancer on mammograms.
According to a 2020 paper published in the medical journal European Radiology, 22 percent of the screen-detected cancers are missed, based on a review of prior screening mammograms with diagnostic images.
“Breast density makes the screening test a little more challenging for radiologists and especially for women younger than 50. They may be called back for a follow up,” said Al-Alshee. “The difference between screening today and a decade ago is the advancement in technology that can interpret digital mammograms.
“Advancements also include developing individual treatment plans with less aggressive side effects such as targeted therapies to block the growth of breast cancer cells, new therapeutic approaches in surgeries such as conservative mastectomies for the aesthetic satisfaction of breast cancer patients coupled with the oncological safety, and many more advancements thanks to modern medicine,” he added.
Beyond detection, emerging technologies are also radically improving breast cancer care. The expansion of targeted therapies has increased treatment options for patients, as new areas of research ranging from immunotherapies, to vaccines, and recurrence prevention are being explored.
“Our vision is clear. We want to save lives,” said Al-Alshee. “Once a patient gets a confirmed diagnosis early, they will find the best treatment in the comfort of their home, surrounded by their loved ones, and with a very supportive ecosystem.
“The earlier the diagnosis, the better the prospects of beating the cancer. Coupled with today’s advancement in technology, the success rate will be even greater.”