How development is going hand in hand with conservation in Saudi Arabia

How development is going hand in hand with conservation in Saudi Arabia
The Arabian Leopard Breeding Center in Taif is just one of the many beneficiaries of Saudi Arabia’s rewilding initiatives. (RCU)
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Updated 23 September 2022

How development is going hand in hand with conservation in Saudi Arabia

How development is going hand in hand with conservation in Saudi Arabia
  • The Arabian leopard is just one face of the Kingdom’s commitment to the regeneration of its landscapes and wildlife

LONDON: It’s not every day that one government takes the trouble to congratulate another on the birth of a pair of cats.

But a very special message last month from the US embassy in Riyadh celebrated the arrival, not of two ordinary felines, but a pair of female leopard cubs, symbols of one of the most ambitious captive breeding programs in the world.

“Congratulations Saudi Arabia on your newest and most adorable residents,” said an embassy tweet on Aug. 18. The Royal Commission for AlUla, it added, “is doing an impressive job working to save the critically endangered Arabian leopard.”

It certainly is. 




The Arabian leopard has graced the wild landscapes of Saudi Arabia for millennia. (Alamy)

The RCU was established in 2017 to preserve and develop AlUla, a region of outstanding natural, historic, and cultural significance in northwest Saudi Arabia, as a global destination that people will come to live, work and visit.

Since then, it has launched a range of initiatives in fields including archaeology, tourism, culture, education, and the arts “reflecting a commitment to meeting the economic diversification, local community empowerment, and heritage preservation priorities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 program.”

Part of the heritage of AlUla, and Saudi Arabia in general, is the Arabian leopard, which graced the wild landscapes of Saudi Arabia for millennia. 




A Baboon is pictured in the southern Saudi city of Abha in Asir province. (Getty Images/AFP)

Images of the animal, dating back to between 6,000 and 11,000 years ago, can be found among the thousands of petroglyphs hand carved into the rocks in Saudi Arabia’s Hail region, adopted by UNESCO in 2015 as a World Heritage Site of “outstanding universal value.”

Today, after centuries of persecution at the hands of farmers and hunters, and the steady loss of habitat to modern development, the Arabian leopard is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as “critically endangered” — just one short step away from extinction in the wild.

Sightings of this magnificent animal are incredibly rare. There could be fewer than 100 in the entire Arabian Peninsula, where they are found mainly in the Dhofar mountains of Oman, and in Saudi Arabia, the leopard is feared to be all but extinct.

The RCU plans to change that by breeding sufficient numbers of the animal in captivity for release into the mountains of AlUla, a natural habitat where they once roamed for thousands of years.

The two cubs whose births were celebrated last month were the latest of 18 born so far at the RCU’s Arabian Leopard Breeding Center in Taif.

AlUla is home to five nature reserves, covering an area of 12,500 square kilometers, all regarded as possible future habitats for Arabian leopards. Anticipating the release of the first leopards into the wild in 2030, the RCU is busy reintroducing native plants to the area to provide food for herbivores, the leopard’s main prey. 

Hundreds of animals, including the Arabian oryx, sand gazelles, and Nubian ibex, have already been released into the reserves, where they are establishing sustainable colonies.

The Arabian leopard may be the dramatic face of the Kingdom’s commitment to the conservation and regeneration of its landscapes and wildlife, but it is just one of the many beneficiaries of the country’s rewilding initiatives.




There are fewer than 2,500 of the The Rhim, Sand Gazelle or Slender-horned Gazelle in the wild. (Shutterstock)

There are currently 14 protected landscapes in Saudi Arabia, covering an area of more than 82,000 square kilometers — almost the size of its neighbor the UAE. Under the recently launched Saudi Green Initiative, plans are underway to designate up to 30 percent of the Kingdom's territory – more than 640,000 square kilometers – as protected areas. 

The existing protected areas are already home to a bewildering array of wildlife, including the Arabian wolf, striped hyena, red-necked ostrich, Arabian oryx, reem, Idmi gazelle, baboon, caracal, and many types of birds, such as osprey, houbara bustard, and pink-backed pelican, and three different species of fox — red, sand, and Ruppell’s.

In Saudi Arabia, development is going hand in hand with conservation. For example, a commitment to environmental sustainability is woven into the DNA of the Red Sea Development Company, which was set up in 2018 to develop a flagship international tourism destination over an area of 28,000 square kilometers, including 90-plus islands, on Saudi Arabia’s west coast.

The region is home to rare species, including dugongs, wildcats, and green and hawksbill turtles. A lagoon at the heart of the project contains 175 different species of coral and 195 species of fish. It is a vital habitat for endangered seabirds, such as the sooty falcon and crab plover. 




Part of the heritage of AlUla, and Saudi Arabia in general, is the Arabian leopard. (SPA)

“Preservation of these habitats and species is central to the project’s development as 75 percent of the islands will be left untouched with nine designated as special conservation zones,” says the RSDC.

Nature is also an overriding concern at NEOM, another of Saudi Arabia’s giga-projects on the Red Sea. Here, even as the dream of creating a completely sustainable destination for the world takes shape, the top commitment is preserving 95 percent of the beautiful environment in which it will be set, from the crystal-clear seas and pristine beaches to the awe-inspiring deserts and mountains.

The waters off most of Saudi Arabia teem with precious wildlife, including five turtle species. Three of them — Olive Ridley, loggerhead, and the leatherback — are designated as vulnerable. Two — the green and hawksbill — are regarded as endangered. 




Some Nubian ibexes have also been released into reserves in the Kingdom. (Shutterstock)

Off the country’s Arabian Gulf coast, the islands of Karan and Jurayad are primary and protected nesting sites for the hawksbill and green turtles, which also thrive on the Red Sea at Ras Baridi, Farasan Island, Shakir Islands, Ras Al-Shaaban, Jabal Hassan, and Sanafir Island.

By setting ecological standards for development, and through a series of rehabilitation programs and research studies, the Saudi National Center for Wildlife is protecting these habitats as part of the Kingdom’s broader commitment to preserving and restoring its marine biodiversity.


Al-Sheikh leads Saudi delegation to G20 Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit

Al-Sheikh leads Saudi delegation to G20 Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit
Updated 07 October 2022

Al-Sheikh leads Saudi delegation to G20 Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit

Al-Sheikh leads Saudi delegation to G20 Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit

JAKARTA: A delegation from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, headed by speaker of the Shoura Council Sheikh Dr. Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim Al Al-Sheikh, participated at the eighth G20 Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit on Oct. 5, 2022.

The summit, held in Jakarta, was themed “Recover Together, Recover Stronger.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Duarte Pacheco, and Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia Puan Maharani, were also present.

Widodo delivered the opening speech and welcomed the various parliament speakers, stressing the importance of the group, which seeks to solve all problems facing the world’s population, referring to the significance of communication among all countries to realize economic recovery and create a more prosperous and developed world.

Indonesia is the host of this year's gathering of the world's top 20 economies, coming next after Italy (2021) and Saudi Arabia (2020).

The G20 members are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, UK, US, and the European Union. Spain is also invited as a permanent guest.


Saudi Arabia’s Qassim launches breast cancer awareness campaign 

Saudi Arabia’s Qassim launches breast cancer awareness campaign 
Updated 06 October 2022

Saudi Arabia’s Qassim launches breast cancer awareness campaign 

Saudi Arabia’s Qassim launches breast cancer awareness campaign 

QASSIM: Al-Qassim Health Cluster launched a breast cancer awareness campaign, “Qassim is Rosary,” on Wednesday as part of international Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. 

The Qassim Health Assembly said that more than 180 of its health centers and facilities have been designated to conduct initial examinations for the early detection of breast cancer.

The campaign, targeting women aged between 18-60, aims to educate the community about the dangers and causes of breast cancer, as well as methods of prevention and early detection. 

It also encourages women to book mammogram appointments at clinics available in the region. 

The event also featured stories of women who recovered from breast cancer as well as folkloric performances.

The awareness campaign will be held at women’s government facilities, universities and colleges, and parks.


Global Health Exhibition starts in Riyadh Sunday

Global Health Exhibition starts in Riyadh Sunday
Updated 06 October 2022

Global Health Exhibition starts in Riyadh Sunday

Global Health Exhibition starts in Riyadh Sunday

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

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Baha to double Shadawi coffee production
Updated 06 October 2022

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Baha to double Shadawi coffee production

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

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

Saudi Red Crescent Authority courses benefit 113,000
Updated 06 October 2022

Saudi Red Crescent Authority courses benefit 113,000

Saudi Red Crescent Authority courses benefit 113,000

 

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.