On International Day of the Arabian Leopard, together, we can make a difference

On International Day of the Arabian Leopard, together, we can make a difference

On International Day of the Arabian Leopard, together, we can make a difference
Young leopard at breeding center. (Photo courtesy: the Royal Commission for AlUla)
Short Url

Wildlife conservation is critical to the planet’s biodiversity and to ensuring the long-term survival of countless species … including our own. While the plight of an animal like the Arabian leopard may seem far removed from the daily life of most, our collective well-being is inextricably linked. Everything in nature is connected to the rest of the world. Your health and the health of your family and community is linked to the vitality of all other species.

In 2021, with fewer than 200 Arabian leopards — a critically endangered species — left in the wild, I started Catmosphere. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became increasingly clear how our planet, environment, wildlife and our own well-being are all interconnected. And while the survival and longevity of this subspecies may have driven the original initiative, the story is one of determination and hope for our collective future.

As human activities continue to encroach on natural habitats and drive species like the Arabian leopard to the brink of extinction, the need for conservation efforts has never been more urgent. Among the many species threatened by habitat loss, poaching and human-wildlife conflict, big cats stand out as iconic and imperiled symbols of the challenges facing wildlife conservation. And the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is leading efforts to help ensure their survival. Whether through the Catwalk Trails in Sharaan Nature Reserve, the Royal Commission for AlUla’s breeding and reintroduction program or the Arabian Leopard Fund, the Kingdom is committed to fostering a more sustainable future, including for wildlife.

While the survival and longevity of this subspecies may have driven the original initiative, the story is one of determination and hope for our collective future.

Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud

Catmosphere has worked with leading experts in the field of conservation to tell the stories of big cats and their conservation challenges to encourage us all to take action to address our collective well-being. The preservation of big cats, including species such as tigers, lions, leopards, jaguars and cheetahs, has been the focal point of Catmosphere’s global efforts to protect biodiversity. These majestic creatures play a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance of their respective habitats. As apex predators, big cats help regulate prey populations, which in turn affects the entire food web. However, big cats face numerous threats that jeopardize their survival, including habitat destruction, the illegal wildlife trade and climate change.

So, I was so elated that, through Catmosphere’s efforts, the UN last year recognized the “International Day of the Arabian Leopard,” an initiative sponsored by Saudi Arabia and co-sponsored by more than 30 member states. The resolution proclaimed Feb. 10 as the International Day of the Arabian Leopard, to be observed annually around the world from this year. This announcement was significant because it was the first time ever that the UN had named an international day of recognition for a mammal or a big cat or a subspecies. And it was the first time that an international day established by the UN was led by Saudi Arabia. I am particularly proud that this day is for conservation.

On the first International Day of the Arabian Leopard, Catmosphere is inviting everyone to celebrate by taking part in the third “CATWALK,” a mass participation walk that is open to everyone, everywhere. The Arabian leopard and its habitats cannot speak for themselves. We need to speak and act on their behalf. I encourage you to visit the Catmosphere website (catmosphere.org), where you can get involved, participate in the CATWALK and register your support.

This first International Day of the Arabian Leopard is a testament to the idea that truly anything is possible … it is not too late. Our well-being is interconnected — from reintroducing the native Arabian leopard in AlUla to planting mangroves in the Red Sea, our collective action brings positive change. Together, we can make a difference.
Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud has served as the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the US since 2019. She founded Catmosphere, a foundation aimed at addressing collective well-being through conservation, in 2021.

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

 

 

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view

23-hour ordeal ends for 175 holidaymakers stranded in Turkiye cable car

23-hour ordeal ends for 175 holidaymakers stranded  in Turkiye cable car
Updated 1 min 42 sec ago
Follow

23-hour ordeal ends for 175 holidaymakers stranded in Turkiye cable car

23-hour ordeal ends for 175 holidaymakers stranded  in Turkiye cable car
  • The stranded people had been stuck on the Tunektepe cable car, just outside the Mediterranean city of Antalya, since 5:30 p.m. on Friday
  • The cable car carries tourists from Konyaalti beach to a restaurant and viewing platform at the summit of the 618-meter Tunektepe peak

ISTANBUL: The last of 174 people stranded in cable cars high above a mountain in southern Turkiye were brought to safety Saturday, nearly 23 hours after one pod hit a pole and burst open, killing one person and injuring seven when they plummeted to the rocks below.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced the successful completion of the rescue operation on X Saturday afternoon.
A total of 607 search and rescue personnel and 10 helicopters were involved, including teams from Turkiye’s emergency response agency, AFAD, the Coast Guard, firefighting teams and mountain rescue teams from different parts of Turkiye, officials said. Helicopters with night-vision capabilities had continued rescuing people throughout the night.
The stranded people had been stuck on the Tunektepe cable car, just outside the Mediterranean city of Antalya, since 5:30 p.m. on Friday, when the accident occurred.
Istanbul resident Hatice Polat and her family were rescued seven hours into the ordeal. Speaking to the Anadolu agency, she said the power went out and the pod flipped four or five times.
“The night was awful, we were very scared. There were children with us, they passed out,” she said. “It was torture being up there for seven hours. It is swaying every second, you’re constantly in fear. ... It was very traumatic, I don’t know how we’ll get over this trauma.”
State-run Anadolu Agency identified the deceased as a 54-year-old Turkish man. Those injured included two children and were six Turkish citizens and one Kyrgyz national. They were all rescued by Coast Guard helicopters soon after the crash and sent for treatment. Images in Turkish media showed the battered car swaying from dislodged cables on the side of the rocky mountain as medics tended the wounded.
Yerlikaya also announced that 13 people rescued from other cars were also taken to hospitals for checkups.
Friday was the final day of a three-day public holiday in Turkiye marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which sees families flock to coastal resorts.
The cable car carries tourists from Konyaalti beach to a restaurant and viewing platform at the summit of the 618-meter (2,010-foot) Tunektepe peak. It is run by Antalya Metropolitan Municipality. The cable car line was completed in 2017 and receives a major inspection around the beginning of the year, as well as routine inspections throughout the year.
Antalya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation. An expert commission including mechanical and electrical engineers and health and safety experts was assigned to determine the cause of the incident.


Saudi, Norway foreign ministers discuss Gaza during call

Saudi, Norway foreign ministers discuss Gaza during call
Updated 14 min 33 sec ago
Follow

Saudi, Norway foreign ministers discuss Gaza during call

Saudi, Norway foreign ministers discuss Gaza during call

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Saturday received a telephone call from his Norwegian counterpart Espen Barth Eide, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.
During the call, they discussed the latest developments in the Gaza Strip and efforts to contain the crisis.
The call comes a day after Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said that Norway was ready to recognize a Palestinian state together with other countries,


Iran launches drones at Israel, airspace closed and defenses poised

Iran launches drones at Israel, airspace closed and defenses poised
Updated 14 min 49 sec ago
Follow

Iran launches drones at Israel, airspace closed and defenses poised

Iran launches drones at Israel, airspace closed and defenses poised
  • “Wing of Zion,” Israel’s version of US “Air Force One,” airborne
  • Israeli army spokesman said would take several hours for drones to arrive

JERUSALEM: Iran launched drones toward Israel late Saturday, the Israeli military announced, and Iran’s state-run media reported that dozens had been fired.
The Israeli army’s spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said it would take several hours for the aircraft to arrive and that the country was prepared. Iran had been threatening to attack Israel since an airstrike last week killed two Iranian generals in Syria. Israel has not commented on that attack, but Iran accused it of being behind it.
Israeli aviation authorities said they were closing the country’s airspace to all flights as of 12:30 a.m. local time (5:30 p.m. EDT).
The drone attack late Saturday marked the first time Iran had ever launched a full-scale military assault on Israel, despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
In a statement carried by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency, the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard acknowledged launching “dozens of drones and missiles toward the occupied territories and positions of the Zionist regime.” The statement did not elaborate.
The White House said it would provide unspecified support for Israel’s defense against the ongoing attack. “The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
President Joe Biden was set to convene a principals meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the unfolding attack, the White House said. Biden had cut short a weekend trip to his beach house in Delaware to return to the White House and monitor the situation.
Earlier Saturday, the Israeli military said it was canceling school and limiting public gatherings to no more than 1,000 people as a precaution.
Hagari said Israel is “prepared and ready” with defensive and offensive actions. He also said there was “tight” cooperation with the US and other partners in the region.
The head of the US Central Command, Gen. Erik Kurilla, has been in Israel in recent days to coordinate with Israel about the Iranian threats.
Israel has a number of layers of air defense capable of intercepting everything from long-range missiles to UAV’s and short-range rockets. Hagari said Israel has an “excellent air defense system” but stressed it is not 100 percent effective and urged the public to listen to safety announcements.
For days, Iranian officials including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have threatened to “slap” Israel for its Syria strike.
Iran has largely avoided directly attacking Israel, despite its targeted killings of nuclear scientists and sabotage campaigns on Iran’s atomic sites. Iran has targeted Israeli or Jewish-linked sites through proxy forces.
Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip has inflamed decade-old tensions in the Middle East, and any new attack threatens to escalate that conflict into a wider regional war.
Flight-tracking data showed the airspace over Jordan empty, while few flights continued on their north-south routes over Iraq. A sole Middle East Airlines flight from Dubai to Beirut remained airborne over Syria.
Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported heavy Israeli airstrikes and shelling on multiple locations in south Lebanon following the launch of drones from Iran. The Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has been clashing with Israeli forces in the border area for more than six months.
Earlier Saturday, commandos from Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard rappelled from a helicopter onto an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz and seized the vessel.
Iran’s state-run IRNA said a special forces unit of the Guard’s navy carried out the attack on the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime.
Zodiac Maritime is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. Zodiac declined to comment and referred questions to MSC. Geneva-based MSC acknowledged the seizure and said 25 crew members were on the ship.
“We are working closely with the relevant authorities to ensure their wellbeing, and safe return of the vessel,” MSC said.
White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the crew was made up of Indian, Filipino, Pakistani, Russian and Estonian nationals and urged Iran to release them and the vessel.
IRNA said the Guard would take the vessel into Iranian territorial waters.
A Middle East defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, provided video of the attack to The Associated Press in which Iranian commandos are seen rappelling onto a stack of containers on the vessel’s deck.
The video corresponded with known details of the MSC Aries. The commandos rappelled from what appeared to be a Soviet-era Mil Mi-17 helicopter, which both the Guard and the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen have used before to raid ships.
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called on nations to list the Guard as a terrorist organization. Iran “is a criminal regime that supports Hamas’ crimes and is now conducting a pirate operation in violation of international law,” Katz said.
The US, Israel’s main backer, has stood by the country despite growing concerns over Israel’s war on Gaza killing more than 33,600 Palestinians and wounding over 76,200 more. Israel’s war began after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people and saw some 250 others taken hostage.
The Pentagon said Saturday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Israeli counterpart “to discuss urgent regional threats ... and made clear that Israel could count on full US support to defend Israel against any attacks by Iran and its regional proxies.” National security adviser Jake Sullivan also spoke with his counterpart to reinforce Washington’s “ironclad commitment to the security of Israel.”


Why the bidding may be furious for a portrait of Ottoman ruler Mehmed II, coming up for sale soon

Why the bidding may be furious for a portrait of Ottoman ruler Mehmed II, coming up for sale soon
Updated 47 min 23 sec ago
Follow

Why the bidding may be furious for a portrait of Ottoman ruler Mehmed II, coming up for sale soon

Why the bidding may be furious for a portrait of Ottoman ruler Mehmed II, coming up for sale soon
  • The newly rediscovered medallion features a portrait of Sultan Mehmed II The Conqueror
  • The item is expected to sell for around £2 million at auction at Bonhams of London

LONDON: To the Christians of Europe in the mid-15th century, the Islamic leader Mehmed II was “the terror of the world,” a “venomous dragon” at the head of “bloodthirsty hordes.”

The Roman Catholic Pope, Nicholas V, went even further. To him, the seventh ruler of the Ottoman Empire was nothing less than “the son of Satan, perdition and death.”

Understandably, Mehmed’s subjects felt rather differently about the man who between 1444 and 1481 would triple the size of the empire.

To them, he was “The Father of Conquest,” the man who in 1453, at the age of 21, achieved the impossible by capturing the supposedly impregnable fortress of Constantinople.

The single most strategically important city of the Middle Ages, Constantinople had been in Christian hands ever since its foundation in 330 AD by the Roman Emperor Constantine.

In modern-day Turkiye, Mehmed II is considered a hero by many. Symbolically, the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, which was completed in 1988 and links Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait, bears his name.

Now, a unique and only recently rediscovered portrait of Mehmed the Conqueror, created an estimated three years before his most celebrated feat of arms, is coming up for sale at an auction at Bonhams of London, at which it is predicted to fetch as much as £2 million ($2.53 million).

This painting of Mehmed the Conqueror by Venetian artist Gentile Bellini in about 1480 can be seen at the National Gallery in London. (Supplied)

This is far from being the only known portrait of Mehmed; one of the most famous, painted by the Venetian artist Gentile Bellini in about 1480, can be seen at the National Gallery in London.

The uniqueness of the likeness on the bronze medallion is that it is not only the only known portrait of Mehmed II as a young man, pictured before he conquered Constantinople, but also the earliest known portrait of any Islamic ruler by a Western artist.

There is no date on the medal. But the clue to when the portrait was executed — almost certainly from life, by a skilled but anonymous Renaissance artist — lies in the Latin inscription, which reads: “Great Prince and Great Emir, Sultan Master Mehmet.”

Tellingly, said Oliver White, Bonhams’ head of Islamic and Indian art, “the inscription lacks the ‘Imperatorial’ title, which was included on medals after the fall of Constantinople.”

Experts have also concluded that, because of the absence of any design or lettering on the reverse of the brass medallion, plus the existence of a hole at its top, through which a chain might have been attached, it could well have been “a deeply personal and significant possession of the great Sultan.”

FASTFACTS

• Size of of Ottoman Empire would triple between 1444 and 1481.

• In 1453, at the age of 21, Mehmed II captured Constantinople.

• Mehmed II made further conquests before dying aged 49 in 1481 .

This, said White, suggests the intriguing possibility that it might once have hung around the neck of The Conqueror as a talisman. Indeed, in a later portrait Mehmed is depicted wearing what appears to be the very same medal.

“For us, the single most important historical element is that we believe that the medal belonged personally to Mehmed,” said White.

“You can also say it was almost certainly done from life, that it is a real portrait that actually looks like him rather than being a typical generic miniature painting of a sultan.”

Although the name of the artist remains unknown, “we do know that it was made in Italy, because that’s where all these pieces were being made at the time, when it was a fairly new thing.

“The whole concept of these portrait medallions, which had been resurrected from ancient Rome, had begun only about 20 years earlier, in the 1430s.”

Presenting the fall of Constantinople as an existential struggle between Christianity and Islam would be to simplify a complex situation, said White. There were Turks among the defenders of Constantinople, loyal to the Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI, and thousands of Christians among the 50,000-strong Ottoman army.

In a short biography commissioned by Bonhams, historian Peter Frankopan writes that despite the portrayal of Mehmed in contemporary European propaganda as a tyrant, in fact “the conquest of Constantinople was accompanied by a set of policies that even critics conceded showed a surprising degree of tolerance, most notably to the Greek Orthodox Christians who were protected from persecution by laws as well as by the sultan’s personal command — with similar concessions being given to Armenian Christians, to Jews and to other minorities in the city.”

Nevertheless, the fall of the city, “which had been the subject of lavish investment by the Roman Emperor Constantine and had stood for more than a millennium as the capital of the Roman Empire in the east — usually called the Byzantine Empire — sent shockwaves through the Mediterranean and beyond.

“Constantinople’s fall to Mehmed and his forces was not so much a dramatic moment as a decisive turning point in history.”

Art experts from Sotheby's talk about Paul Signac's "La Corne d'Or (Constantinople)" during an auction preview November 1, 2019 at Sotheby's in New York. (AFP/File photo)

In fact, according to the Victorian British historian Lord Acton, modern history began “under the stress of the Ottoman conquest.”

In Acton’s view, wrote Frankopan, “the failure of Europeans to put their differences to one side, the reluctance of Christians in the west to support their Greek-speaking Orthodox neighbours to the east, and the ineffective response to the threat posed by Mehmed and his Muslim armies set off a chain reaction that ultimately helped shape the Reformation — if not the age of global empires that emerged from places such as Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain.”

It was, said White, “no exaggeration to say that the fall of Constantinople shaped the modern world — and it was with the eventual collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century that many of the problems of the modern world arose.”

In his relatively brief life — he died at the age of 49 in 1481 — Mehmed achieved much, including a series of further conquests in Asia and Europe. But although he carved his way through much of the 15th century with a sword, he was a man of contradictions, introducing many political and social reforms at home and proving a great patron of the arts and sciences.

“He gathered Italian humanists and Greek scholars to his court,” said White, “and by the end of his reign had transformed Constantinople into a thriving imperial capital.”

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Although Mehmed commissioned many portraits of himself during his reign, executed in the Italian style, it is the rarity of the medallion that has invested it with such a high potential value.

“The medal was acquired by its present owner in an auction in Rome in 2000,” said White. “It was lumped in with a job lot of medals, and considered to be of very little importance.”

At the time no one quite understood its significance. A lot of academics have looked at it, and for seven or eight years after the original sale it was thought it might date to the 1460s, which was post-Constantinople and therefore less.”

Finally, it was realized that Mehmed had been referred to by the Latin title “Magnus princeps” only once before — in a treaty with Venice, drawn up in the 1440s.

In all portraits and references following the 53-day siege of 1453 he is referred to without exception as “The Conqueror of Constantinople.”

The unnamed owner is now parting with the medal after the successful completion of two decades of research into its history.

“It’s been his baby for 25 years,” said White, “and I think he feels, ‘we know what it is now, and it's time for the public to enjoy it’.”

There is, of course, no guarantee that the medal will be purchased by an institution, said White. But the expected price and the historical significance of the piece in the story of Islam suggests at least “the possibility” that bidders will include some of the great museums of the Middle East.

Bidding will have to be furious to beat the world record for an Islamic and Indian object, set by the sale in London last year of the sword of Tipu Sultan, ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in southern India between 1782 and 1799, for £14 million.

The Mehmed medallion, estimated at between £1.5-2 million, will be the star lot at the Bonhams Islamic and Indian Art Sale on May 21 at Bonhams New Bond Street, London.

 


Jordan’s civil aviation authority ‘temporarily’ closes Jordanian airspace

Jordan’s civil aviation authority ‘temporarily’ closes Jordanian airspace
Updated 13 April 2024
Follow

Jordan’s civil aviation authority ‘temporarily’ closes Jordanian airspace

Jordan’s civil aviation authority ‘temporarily’ closes Jordanian airspace
  • Commission said Jordanian airspace would be closed to all incoming, departing, and transiting flights

AMMAN: The Jordanian Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission on Saturday announced that Jordanian airspace will be closed “temporarily” for inbound and outbound flights in light of rising regional risks. 

The commission said in a statement that the decision has been taken to ensure the safety and security of Jordanian aerospace in light of the rising escalation and after assessment of the potential regional risks. 

Stopping short from giving further details on the source of these risks, the commission said that Jordanian airspace would be closed to all incoming, departing, and transiting flights temporarily starting from 20:00 UTC, 11:00pm local time, for several hours. 

It added that this measure would be continuously updated and reviewed according to developments. 

The commission said that this measure is taken "to ensure the safety and security of civil aviation in the Jordanian airspace.”