UN recognition of Arabian Leopard Day a ‘major triumph for KSA,’ conservationist says

Special UN recognition of Arabian Leopard Day a ‘major triumph for KSA,’ conservationist says
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Panthera and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement in 2019 to protect the Arabian leopard, which is said to be "the most persecuted of all the big cats” in the world. (Photo courtesy of Arabian Leopard Breeding Center)
Special UN recognition of Arabian Leopard Day a ‘major triumph for KSA,’ conservationist says
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The UN recognition of the Arabian leopard's importance will help boost the efforts of conservationists to save the animal, says Thomas S. Kaplan. (Panthera photo by Steve Winter)
Special UN recognition of Arabian Leopard Day a ‘major triumph for KSA,’ conservationist says
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Panthera and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement in 2019 to protect the Arabian leopard, which is said to be "the most persecuted of all the big cats” in the world. (Photo courtesy of Arabian Leopard Breeding Center)
Special UN recognition of Arabian Leopard Day a ‘major triumph for KSA,’ conservationist says
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Panthera and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement in 2019 to protect the Arabian leopard, which is said to be "the most persecuted of all the big cats” in the world. (Photo courtesy of Arabian Leopard Breeding Center)
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Updated 23 June 2023
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UN recognition of Arabian Leopard Day a ‘major triumph for KSA,’ conservationist says

UN recognition of Arabian Leopard Day a ‘major triumph for KSA,’ conservationist says
  • Panthera co-founder Thomas Kaplan told Arab News the resolution will boost the work of wildlife champions worldwide, as well as those in the Kingdom
  • The Arabian Leopard has been etched into Saudi consciousness for thousands of years, he said, but is the most persecuted of all big cats and critically endangered

NEW YORK CITY: When the UN General Assembly voted this month to adopt a resolution designating Feb. 10 as International Day of the Arabian Leopard, Thomas S. Kaplan’s reaction was one of “absolute delight.”

The leopard has been etched into Saudi consciousness for thousands of years, he said, with the petroglyphs on AlUla’s ancient walls that depict the animal bearing witness to its significance to the Saudi people and their ancestors.
Having the importance of the Arabian Leopard now finally enshrined by the UN General Assembly is therefore “a major triumph for the Saudi people and for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia itself,” Kaplan added during an exclusive interview with Arab News.
As co-founder of Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, and founder and chairperson of the Global Alliance for Wild Cats, Kaplan in 2019 signed an agreement with Prince Badr bin Abdullah, the Saudi minister of culture and governor of the Royal Commission for AlUla, to support regional and international conservation initiatives, at the heart of which is the Arabian Leopard Initiative to protect the critically endangered animal, which is indigenous to AlUla.




Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, Saudi minister of culture and governor of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula, signing the cooperation agreement with Panthera Chairman Thomas Kaplan in AlUla in June 2019. (Supplied/File)


“The Arabian leopard is the most persecuted of all the big cats,” Kaplan said. “So having a champion like Saudi Arabia helping us to do the work that we do so passionately is really a gift from God.”

The UN resolution enshrining an International Day of the Arabian Leopard is “a clear win, both for the leopard and for the Kingdom,” he added.
“It is in many respects a beautiful affirmation of one of the most ambitious environmental and conservation initiatives in generations: The restoration of AlUla as a cultural center point for the new Saudi Arabia is complemented by one of the most significant environmental restoration programs in the world.”
Wild cats play a critical role in ecosystems. They are considered an “umbrella species” when making conservation-related decisions, because efforts to protect them also indirectly protect many other species. They represent “Apex Predator Strategy Opportunities.” What this means is that a thriving wild cat population can help ensure the survival of its entire habitat.
Even the human population can benefit when the animals thrive, because they help boost tourism and shine a light on local communities. In the case of Saudi Arabia, such communities can become important parts of the Kingdom’s broader development agenda, leading to better local amenities and opportunities.




The UN recognition of the animal’s importance will help boost the efforts of conservationists to save the leopard, says Panthera Chairman Thomas Kaplan. (Courtesy of Matthew Carasella Photography)

“In places where we have gone in to save leopards or jaguars or other animals that are part of the local tourist industry, we have always brought with (us) increased medical attention, building schools, building clinics, (showing) the local communities that not only do they have nothing to fear, but they have everything to gain by a thriving cat population, (and that) because of the leopard, there will be socioeconomic opportunities for their children,” said Kaplan.
“If in its own way the Arabian Leopard Initiative is something that not only gives people national pride, but gives those who live in the same habitat as the leopard even greater opportunities for their children, then this is a huge win.

“So the success of the Arabian Leopard Initiative becomes a signal to the Kingdom, and to the rest of the world, that Saudi Arabia has been successful in restoring the landscape. For these reasons, I believe that AlUla is one of the most transformational initiatives in the preservation of cultural and environmental heritage for future generations.”
None of this would have been possible, he said, without “the passion and commitment” of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; Prince Badr; and Princess Reema bint Salman, the Kingdom’s ambassador to the US.
“The revolution from above that has been implemented by the crown prince is the catalyst for all (the reforms that) followed, and the Arabian leopard is no exception,” said Kaplan.
“I have personal experience in engaging with the Crown Prince on the Arabian leopard and leopard conservation globally. He is truly committed not only to the Arabian leopard but also to advancing the cause of leopard conservation in other countries that are not necessarily playing catch-up like Saudi Arabia, but trying to stay ahead of the curve.
Regarding Prince Badr’s role, Kaplan said “everyone knows that (he is) the initiator of the Arabian leopard process. He is, in many respects, the father of the Arabian leopard program, for which I think he will go down in the history books.”
Kaplan also had nothing but praise of Princess Reema.




Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, Saudi ambassador to US, founded Catmosphere, a group dedicated to supporting big cat species worldwide. (AN file photo)


“Anyone who has come into contact with Princess Reema in Washington DC, or elsewhere, immediately is presented with the passion of what the Arabian leopard means for the Kingdom,” he said.
“It’s not simply because the Arabian leopard is, in my mind, to Saudi Arabia what the panda is to China, an instrument of soft power, it’s much more than that.
“The crown prince, Prince Badr and Princess Reema understand that the Arabian leopard is a symbol of national unity for Saudi Arabia. It is something that goes back thousands of years.”
The UN recognition of the animal’s importance will help boost the efforts of conservationists to save the leopard, Kaplan said.
“Being able to show the buy in of the international community allows us the freedom to show to environmental activists all over the world the significance of this initiative,” he added.
“It allows us to be able to evidence that the reintroduction of the Arabian leopard is real, that it has the full support of Saudi Arabia, that it is not some form of power exercise but it’s the product of passion.
“This in turn allows people such as myself on the international stage to be able to recruit the highest-quality experts to work with us in our field.”

Kaplan said the UN resolution will also aid the work of Saudi environmental and wildlife champions, including Catmosphere, a foundation established by Princess Reema to assist big-cat conservation efforts worldwide.


READ MORE: Saudi-led Catmosphere’s inaugural Catwalk raises awareness about wildlife conservation



“Catmosphere has the potential to be the most important cat-conservation awareness program ever undertaken, not simply in the Middle East, but globally, and that was originated by a Saudi, by Princess Reema,” he said.

“It’s an extraordinary story. The impact that it can have on cat conservation is very obvious but, at the same time, the impact that can have on our agenda, which is to get people to see the Arabian Leopard as being Saudi Arabia’s panda, as being a symbol of commitment to the best practices in wildlife conservation, this is absolutely enormous.”
“When you combine the work that Prince Badr is doing at the Royal Commission of AlUla with the work of Catmosphere, what you see is an organic, Saudi-generated initiative and campaign to save the Arabian leopard and, as the crown prince asked us to do, to be able to help countries around the world save their leopards, so that rather than playing catch-up, they’re getting ahead of the curve, and are not in the same situation.
“This is an act of generosity to the world, and it’s coming from Saudi Arabia.”

 

Rewilding Arabia
Return of the leopard is at the heart of plans to conserve and regenerate Saudi Arabia’s landscapes and wildlife

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Saudi Arabia welcomes independent committee’s report on UNRWA’s performance

Saudi Arabia welcomes independent committee’s report on UNRWA’s performance
Updated 24 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia welcomes independent committee’s report on UNRWA’s performance

Saudi Arabia welcomes independent committee’s report on UNRWA’s performance
  • Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs stresses importance of the commitment of donor countries to the organization

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has welcomed an independent committee’s report on the performance of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.
The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Kingdom backed the report, which confirmed UNRWA’s main role in supporting the relief, humanitarian and developmental efforts of the Palestinian people.
The ministry further reiterated Saudi Arabia’s emphasis on the importance of the commitment of donor countries to UNRWA to ensure the sustainability and effectiveness of all forms of support for refugees in a way that reduces their suffering, especially in light of the Israeli occupation’s continued violations of international law and international humanitarian law.


EU Embassy, Arab News honor makers of Saudi ‘Horizon’ documentary

EU Embassy, Arab News honor makers of Saudi ‘Horizon’ documentary
Updated 24 April 2024
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EU Embassy, Arab News honor makers of Saudi ‘Horizon’ documentary

EU Embassy, Arab News honor makers of Saudi ‘Horizon’ documentary
  • Princess Lamia: ‘Screening is a reminder of our shared responsibility to protect precious ecosystems’
  • Ambassador Farnaud: ‘The Saudi Green Initiative and the European Green Deal have shared goals’
  • Abbas: ‘We are delighted to partner with the EU envoy to showcase Saudi Arabian wildlife in a captivating manner’

RIYADH: The makers of a recently produced, highly acclaimed documentary on Saudi wildlife were honored at a special screening of the film “Horizon” at the residence of the EU ambassador in Riyadh.

The new documentary, produced by the Konoz Initiative, is part of a collaboration between the Saudi Ministry of Media’s Center for Government Communication and the National Center for Wildlife.

It explores the ecological treasures and unique habitats of the Kingdom.

Princess Lamia bint Majed Saud Al-Saud, secretary-general of Alwaleed Philanthropies, was a guest of honor. Princess Lamia, through her work with Alwaleed Philanthropies, has recently announced an initiative called Atlai, an innovative artificial intelligence platform to support global efforts to combat deforestation.

Princess Lamia bint Majed Saud Al-Saud (L), secretary-general of Alwaleed Philanthropies, was a guest of honor at the event. (AN photo/ Huda Bashatah)

The screening was followed by a presentation of an honorary certificate to Abdullah Alahmari, CEO of Konoz initiative, and Yazeed Albader, associate producer of “Horizon.” This was presented by EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Christophe Farnaud, Princess Lamia and Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal Abbas.

Farnaud said: “The ‘Horizon’ documentary captures the breathtaking beauty of Saudi Arabia’s diverse natural landscapes and wildlife.

“For centuries, much of the Arabian Peninsula, including Saudi Arabia, held a mysterious attraction for European explorers and travelers.”

The ambassador spoke of the significance of protecting the environment due to basic human needs such as food and water, and dependency on the health of our global environment.

An honorary certificate is presented to Abdullah Alahmari, CEO of Konoz initiative, and Yazeed Albader, associate producer of “Horizon.” (AN photo/ Huda Bashatah) 

“The Saudi Green Initiative and the European Green Deal have shared goals. We all depend on nature for our food, air, water, energy and raw materials. Nature and biodiversity make life possible, provide health, and drive our economy. Nature is also our best ally in tackling the climate crisis,” he said.

“Climate change, economic diversification and transitioning to renewables remain priority areas for both the EU with its policy of European Green Deal as well as for Saudi Arabia with its Vision 2030.”

Princess Lamia gave her thoughts on Saudi Arabia’s fascinating natural wonders that are featured in the film.

“Through ‘Horizon’ we are transported to the breathtaking beauty and rich biodiversity of Saudi Arabia. This documentary promises to immerse us in the heart of the Kingdom’s diverse wildlife and scenery,” she said.

The makers of a documentary on Saudi wildlife were honored at a special screening of the film “Horizon” at the residence of the EU ambassador in Riyadh. (AN photo/ Huda Bashatah)

“Tonight’s screening is not only a celebration of Saudi Arabia’s rich natural heritage but also a call to action — a reminder of our shared responsibility to protect and conserve the precious ecosystems that define our world.

“In a time where our forests and natural ecosystems are disappearing at an alarming rate, Atlai, created by Alwaleed Philanthropies, is a testament to the power of innovation and collaboration. It’s about igniting a passion for preservation, a fervor for conservation, and a commitment to safeguarding our planet for generations to come.”

Abbas expressed appreciation for the Saudi team behind the “Horizon” documentary, saying: “We are delighted to have partnered with the EU delegation to host a special screening of this remarkable documentary which showcases Saudi Arabian wildlife in a truly captivating manner.”

Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal Abbas. (AN photo/ Huda Bashatah)

He added: “As part of Arab News Green and Blue initiative, which focuses on environment and sustainability, we are also proud to present the Saudi team behind the ‘Horizon’ documentary with a certificate of appreciation, and thank them for their contribution in preserving and showcasing the wonders our beloved Kingdom has to offer.”

Arab News has recently launched its Green And Blue, an initiative which discusses environmental subjects regarding climate change, desertification, wildlife preservation, sustainability, and green energy, with a close emphasis on the environment in Saudi Arabia.

The CEO of Konoz initiative expressed how thrilled he was to attend the screening of the movie.

“This documentary sheds light on the beauty of Saudi Arabia, its versatile terrain and highlights the wildlife we are blessed to have in the Kingdom,” Said Alahmari.

The makers of a documentary on Saudi wildlife were honored at a special screening of the film “Horizon” at the residence of the EU ambassador in Riyadh. (AN photo/ Huda Bashatah)

He expressed his appreciation to the Minister of Media Salman bin Yousef Al-Dossary for his constant support in ensuring that the movie highlights the Kingdom and reaches a broader audience.

The associate producer of the work explained how the documentary took more than 260 days of shooting and more than 2,000 hours of recording because it covered all the regions.

“If you want to shoot some of the animals, you may not get luck on the spot. So, you have to do some scouting, you have to arrive a couple of days before, stay for weeks to spot a nice shot, or to get that perfect skyline with the clouds, sunset or sunrise,” said Albader.

“I was honored to be here, the screening was great. It is a pleasure to be here with the ambassadors, and to see how a lot of people care about nature and wildlife. This is just the beginning of many events to come.”

“Horizon” is now available on Netflix internationally.


Inaugural Umrah and Ziyarah Forum focuses on innovative ways to enhance pilgrim experience

Inaugural Umrah and Ziyarah Forum focuses on innovative ways to enhance pilgrim experience
Updated 24 April 2024
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Inaugural Umrah and Ziyarah Forum focuses on innovative ways to enhance pilgrim experience

Inaugural Umrah and Ziyarah Forum focuses on innovative ways to enhance pilgrim experience
  • The 3-day event, which concluded on Wednesday, included 6 discussion sessions and 24 workshops led by 29 experts

JEDDAH: The inaugural Umrah and Ziyarah Forum concluded on Wednesday at the King Salman International Convention Center in Madinah. During the three-day event, participants discussed ways to foster collaborations, enhance the pilgrimage experience and improve the services provided for pilgrims.

The agenda for the forum, organized by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in partnership with the Pilgrim Experience Program, included six discussion sessions and 24 workshops led by 29 experts and specialists.

The topics they covered included services for pilgrims and other visitors, advancements in air travel services for pilgrims, financial systems in the Umrah and ziyarah sectors, and development opportunities in housing and hospitality services.

Other discussions focused on services at ports, the automation of operations, ways to improve the efficiency of workers, and the important role of services provided for visitors at holy sites and throughout their journeys in Makkah and Madinah.

One of the key topics was air travel services, with discussions about the growth in flight numbers and the need to provide a comprehensive range of services throughout pilgrims’ journeys beyond those purely focusing on their rituals. For example, participants highlighted plans for the expansion of Madinah Airport to better accommodate the increasing numbers of pilgrims and other visitors arriving there.

Another discussion examined financial services in the Umrah and ziyarah sector, and explored the options for international money transfers, ways to develop financial procedures, and innovative digital solutions for processing transactions.

Other topics included development opportunities in housing and hospitality services, during which speakers emphasized the importance of transparency and the need for full compliance by service providers with the terms of their contracts.

The final day of the event featured two panel discussions, one about the role of technology in finding solutions to the challenges in guest services, and the other on ways to carefully develop historical sites to enrich the historical and spiritual experiences for visitors to Makkah and Madinah.


Who’s Who: Swaied Al-Zahrani, CEO of Saudi Credit Bureau

Who’s Who: Swaied Al-Zahrani, CEO of Saudi Credit Bureau
Updated 24 April 2024
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Who’s Who: Swaied Al-Zahrani, CEO of Saudi Credit Bureau

Who’s Who: Swaied Al-Zahrani, CEO of Saudi Credit Bureau

Swaied Al-Zahrani has been the CEO of the Saudi Credit Bureau, also known as SIMAH, since March 2018.

As CEO, Al-Zahrani has guided SIMAH’s short and long-term strategies, ensuring a competitive landscape within the market.

He led major restructuring to enable a future-proof operating model and enhance customer experience. He is focused on improving the governance, risk management, and data management framework and practices.

Al-Zahrani is also a board member of Qarar, a decision analytics company specializing in tailored customer management and lending process automation solutions based in Riyadh, and a board member at Tassnief, the first local credit rating agency licensed by the Capital Market Authority.

He has nearly two decades of experience in the financial sector and is known for his ability to maximize shareholder value through effective strategies, committed to driving innovation and excellence in the financial industry.

Prior to his current role, he worked as chief operations officer at the Social Development Bank in Riyadh from January 2016 to March 2018. He led the bank’s transformation program, focusing on building a new strategy, organizational restructuring, automation and digitalization, customer experience, and risk controls while promoting a savings culture aligned with national strategies.

Al-Zahrani worked for nine years at Al-Rajhi Bank in various domains including IT, business, and banking operations groups, where he participated in major transformation programs.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah.


Saudi embassy in Cairo receives Kingdom’s first female astronaut

Saudi embassy in Cairo receives Kingdom’s first female astronaut
Updated 24 April 2024
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Saudi embassy in Cairo receives Kingdom’s first female astronaut

Saudi embassy in Cairo receives Kingdom’s first female astronaut

Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Egypt Osama Nugali on Wednesday received Saudi astronaut Rayyanah Barnawi, who is currently visiting Egypt, at the embassy in Cairo.

Nugali congratulated Barnawi, the first Saudi female astronaut, on her achievement which affirmed the progress Saudi Arabia is witnessing in all fields, including the space sector and its technologies, in light of its ambitious Vision 2030.

Barnawi, who is a scientist specializing in cancer stem-cell research, traveled into space as part of the Axiom Mission 2 to the International Space Station last year.