Two lynx kittens born at Prince Saud Al-Faisal National Center in Taif

Two lynx kittens born at Prince Saud Al-Faisal National Center in Taif
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A breeding program set up by the National Center for Wildlife Development has paid off after a lynx at the Prince Saud Al-Faisal Center for Wildlife Research in Taif gave birth to two kittens, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday. (SPA)
Two lynx kittens born at Prince Saud Al-Faisal National Center in Taif
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A breeding program set up by the National Center for Wildlife Development has paid off after a lynx at the Prince Saud Al-Faisal Center for Wildlife Research in Taif gave birth to two kittens, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday. (SPA)
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Updated 04 July 2024
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Two lynx kittens born at Prince Saud Al-Faisal National Center in Taif

Two lynx kittens born at Prince Saud Al-Faisal National Center in Taif
  • Births follow launch of specialist breeding program in 2022
  • New arrivals tribute to center’s efforts to protect endangered species, NCW chief says

RIYADH: A breeding program set up by the National Center for Wildlife Development has paid off after a lynx at the Prince Saud Al-Faisal Center for Wildlife Research in Taif gave birth to two kittens, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.
The program was established in 2022 and is part of the center’s wider efforts to preserve wildlife and protect ecosystems in line with the National Environment Strategy and Saudi Green Initiative under Vision 2030.
NCW CEO Dr. Mohammed Ali Qurban said the birth of the kittens represented the center’s “ongoing efforts to preserve endangered species and expand breeding programs” and was “evidence of the continued success in implementing ambitious environmental programs that aim to protect biodiversity in the Kingdom.”
Such initiatives sought to “promote the best practices of environmental conservation in accordance with an integrated legislative structure that embodies the center’s vision of achieving a thriving and sustainable wildlife,” he said.
Qurban said the predator breeding program was being run alongside other programs that sought to create suitable environments for the animals on their release, and that the Taif center had played a key role in helping to get endangered species back into their natural environments.


Saudi wildlife center celebrates cheetah conservation milestone

Saudi wildlife center celebrates cheetah conservation milestone
Updated 23 July 2024
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Saudi wildlife center celebrates cheetah conservation milestone

Saudi wildlife center celebrates cheetah conservation milestone
  • Four cubs born as part of national strategy

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Wildlife has announced a major breakthrough in its cheetah conservation efforts, with the birth of four cubs and the completion of a comprehensive national strategy.

The announcement came during a session held by the center on Tuesday to introduce the cheetah, and outline efforts for its reintroduction. This initiative is part of the National Cheetah Conservation Strategy within the National Cheetah Reintroduction Program, launched last year under the auspices of the minister of environment, water and agriculture, Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli, who is also chairman of the center.

The center’s CEO, Dr. Mohammed Qurban, said: “The official launch of the National Cheetah Conservation Strategy and the announcement of the birth of four cheetah cubs signifies an important achievement in our conservation efforts. This strategy reflects our unwavering commitment to ensuring a sustainable future for wild cheetahs in their natural habitats in the Kingdom.”

Qurban added that the birth of the cubs was especially important given the cheetah’s absence from the Arabian Peninsula for more than four decades.

“Our recent discovery of ancient cheetah mummies in northern Saudi Arabia underscores the region’s historical role as a prime cheetah habitat,” he said.

Qurban said that this discovery would fuel the determination to reestablish cheetah populations, “guided by an integrated strategy designed in accordance with best international practices.”

He said: “The current remaining distribution of cheetahs worldwide is limited to 9 percent of their historical range, with only 7,100 in existence among 34 different groups in the wild.”

The center also unveiled its multi-phase National Cheetah Conservation Strategy during the briefing session. The plan outlines a series of critical steps aimed at reestablishing a viable cheetah population in Saudi Arabia.

The strategy begins with the creation of specialized breeding facilities and rewilding centers, identifying protected areas that offer suitable habitats for the reintroduced cheetahs, preparing for reintroduction, community partnership in the protection program, and finally, reintroduction and establishment of a self-sustaining breeding population.

The announcement reflects Saudi Arabia’s leading role and success in efforts to enhance environmental balance through the conservation of endangered species, their captive breeding, and reintroduction. The center said that only 15 percent of cheetahs born in the wild could breed in captivity, and of this group, only 20 percent continued to reproduce.

The center’s research team, in collaboration with global experts, has recently disclosed pivotal findings from its comprehensive cheetah research, offering new perspectives on the species’ presence in the Arabian Peninsula. The study, which examined the chronological age of specimens and identified cheetah subspecies, provided a fresh look at the cultural and historical significance of these big cats in the region. The findings are set to recalibrate current conservation strategies. By correcting long-held misconceptions and providing region-specific data, the study allows for more targeted and effective conservation efforts.

The team has successfully pinpointed the timeline of the cheetah’s extinction in the region and extracted crucial genetic information from historical specimens. The scientists have identified the specific subspecies of the Arabian cheetah, comparing its genetic sequence with those of cheetahs currently housed in the center’s facilities and populations worldwide. The findings support the center’s ongoing efforts to breed and reintroduce cheetahs to their native habitats in Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom is ramping up its commitment to cheetah conservation, employing a multi-faceted approach that combines scientific research, innovative strategies and collaborative partnerships.


Saudi cabinet urges practical steps to resolve Palestine issue

Saudi cabinet urges practical steps to resolve Palestine issue
Updated 23 July 2024
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Saudi cabinet urges practical steps to resolve Palestine issue

Saudi cabinet urges practical steps to resolve Palestine issue
  • They called on the international community and influential parties to take responsibility and help de-escalate tensions in the region

RIYADH: The Saudi cabinet, chaired by King Salman on Tuesday, discussed ongoing efforts by the Kingdom to end the war in Gaza and support peace efforts in Yemen.

The Cabinet called on the international community and influential parties to take responsibility and help de-escalate tensions in the region in order to bring about security and stability.

The Council of Ministers also expressed support for the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion on the illegality of the Israeli presence in the occupied Palestinian territories over the past 57 years.

The Kingdom emphasized the need for practical and credible steps toward a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue, in line with the Arab Peace Initiative and international legitimacy resolutions.

The Council also reviewed the latest developments in the national economy, noting stable inflation rates that remain below global targets due to the strength of the Kingdom’s economy and effective measures against rising global prices.


Saudi focuses on global economy at G20 development meeting

Saudi focuses on global economy at G20 development meeting
Updated 23 July 2024
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Saudi focuses on global economy at G20 development meeting

Saudi focuses on global economy at G20 development meeting

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Economy and Planning Minister Faisal bin Fadel Alibrahim has been holding talks with officials from several nations on the state of the global economy at the G20 Development Ministerial Meeting in Brazil.

On the sidelines of the G20 meeting, which began on Monday and ends on July 24, Alibrahim held discussions with Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mauro Vieira on the latter’s agenda while holding the presidency of the G20.

They also discussed efforts to enhance cooperation in various sectors, including infrastructure, agribusiness and renewable energy, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The minister also met with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Secretary-General Mathias Cormann on regional and global economic developments, and Saudi Arabia’s work with the OECD.

In addition, Alibrahim had discussions with Singapore’s Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education Mohamad Maliki Osman.

They focused on ways to enhance relations including in the industrial, education, investment and financial sectors.

 

 


Mermaids in the Red Sea: Jeddah diving course offers new aquatic adventure

Mermaids in the Red Sea: Jeddah diving course offers new aquatic adventure
Updated 23 July 2024
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Mermaids in the Red Sea: Jeddah diving course offers new aquatic adventure

Mermaids in the Red Sea: Jeddah diving course offers new aquatic adventure
  • It's a whimsical yet invigorating experience for divers wanting to try something new

JEDDAH: Inspired by mythical sea-dwelling creatures, a diving center in Jeddah is offering a first-of-its-kind mermaid diving course for those wanting to splash around in cool waters during the summer.

Scuba Schools International at Al-Haddad Scuba in the coastal city offers a whimsical yet invigorating experience for those in search of an aquatic adventure.

All over the world, mermaids represent beauty, danger, transformation, duality, and feminine power. Today they continue to inspire literature, film, fashion, and even marine conservation efforts.

Ali Ayoub, Al-Haddad Scuba, certified mermaid diver

Arab News spoke to Corinna Davids, an Austrian scuba diving and swimming instructor known for her groundbreaking approach to mermaid diving. She developed the SSI Mermaid Program after years of expertise in free diving and swimming.

Davids became an instructor in swimming and scuba diving at SSI when she was 18 and has since revolutionized the diving industry, making waves with her innovative techniques and passion for the sea.

HIGHLIGHTS

• In April, Corinna Davids held the first mermaid diving course for instructors in Saudi Arabia.

• The course comprises extensive theory sessions, in-water training, and evaluations of teaching abilities.

Mermaid diving, she explained, is an art form that combines the technique of dolphin kick used in swimming with an exaggerated, aesthetically pleasing movement. This unique style not only looks beautiful but also ensures efficiency and safety.

“By mastering various fun skills and tricks, SSI mermaids can perform beautifully while maintaining safety protocols,” she told Arab News.

Saudi model Wafaa Al-Masry said the mermaid diving course was ‘a fun and unique experience.’ (Supplied)

Davids says that to become a mermaid one needs only basic water confidence. “The program is easily accessible, and to become a mermaid instructor, one needs to complete additional steps after becoming a mermaid,” she added.

The mermaid diving experience is incomplete without the mermaid costume. Davids recommends using high-quality monofins, such as the Mahina Monofin, which provides efficiency and aesthetic appeal. The tail skin, made from Lycra or scuba fabric, completes the look and will give mermaids the confidence to shine.

In April, Davids held the first mermaid diving course for instructors in Saudi Arabia, focusing on safety, technique and teaching methods to ensure that trainees are able to teach mermaid diving to students of all levels. The course comprises extensive theory sessions, in-water training, and evaluations of teaching abilities.

Initiatives such as the Vision 2030 plan aim to diversify the economy and promote tourism, which includes the development of new recreational activities like mermaid diving.

Ali Ayoub, Al-Haddad Scuba, certified mermaid diver

“The course received an overwhelmingly positive response from the trainees, who showed significant improvement throughout the program,” she said.

The newly certified instructors will be able to teach the mermaid diving program throughout Saudi Arabia.

“The primary aim of conducting this course in Saudi Arabia was to introduce a new, fun program that would appeal to kids and adults alike. Mermaid diving offers an exciting experience for those who may be hesitant to try scuba diving or freediving,” Davids said.

Corinna Davids, a respected scuba diving and swimming instructor known for her groundbreaking approach to mermaid diving. (Instagram/corinna.flowrebels)

Four participants from diverse backgrounds took part in the course, including a swimming instructor and lifeguard, two scuba instructors (one of whom is a doctor), and a free-diving instructor who is also an air traffic controller.

Ali Ayoub, a certified mermaid diver and scuba instructor from Al-Haddad Scuba, told Arab News: “Saudi Arabia has been undergoing considerable social and cultural transformations, with more emphasis on leisure and recreational activities.

“Initiatives such as the Vision 2030 plan aim to diversify the economy and promote tourism, which includes the development of new recreational activities like mermaid diving.”

Ayoub added that mermaid diving requires strong swimming abilities and good physical fitness. “Practice swimming regularly, work on your breath-holding techniques, and consider taking free-diving courses to improve your underwater endurance,” he advised.

He added that mermaid divers can participate in educational programs for schools, community groups, and public events: “They can share information about marine ecosystems, the threats they face, and how individuals can help. Their captivating presence can make learning about these issues more engaging and memorable.”

Wafaa Al-Masry, 22, a Saudi model, took the mermaid diving course under the supervision of coach Ayoub. She told Arab News: “It was a fun and unique experience. Initially, I thought it would be difficult, but with the training and the coach’s guidance, I found it easy and enjoyable.”

She said that breathing techniques, relaxation, and mastering the fin method were new skills she managed differently throughout the mermaid course. “The trainer was excellent in providing instruction, making the experience fun, and delivering valuable information,” she added.

Davids has written a comprehensive guide for those interested in discovering the magic of mermaid diving in Saudi Arabia. The guide provides all the necessary information for new mermaids to stay safe, make informed decisions, and choose the right equipment.

Having trained more than 3,000 divers in the past five years, Al-Haddad Scuba specializes in unique activities such as snorkeling, deep diving and night diving, providing immersive experiences of the vibrant underwater world alongside a community of fellow ocean enthusiasts.

 

 


Saudi farmer turns worm waste into wealth in innovative move

Saudi farmer turns worm waste into wealth in innovative move
Updated 22 July 2024
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Saudi farmer turns worm waste into wealth in innovative move

Saudi farmer turns worm waste into wealth in innovative move
  • Vermicomposting operation is an example of agricultural ingenuity

RIYADH: A Saudi farmer has developed a technique that transforms a common garden nuisance into a useful resource.

Mohammed Al-Shaer, of Al-Dhafir village in Baha, has established a thriving vermicomposting operation on his farm, producing high-quality organic fertilizer from earthworms, according to a report by the Saudi Press Agency.

Al-Shaer’s venture began approximately a year ago with a simple setup: a single 5-meter-long, 60 cm-high tank housing roughly 2,000 worms. The worms were fed a diet of dry leaves, organic waste, and food scraps and were closely monitored for four months, yielding over 300 kg of nutrient-rich compost and a tenfold increase in their population.

Baha farmer Mohammed Al-Shaer’s worm compost accelerates plant growth, enhances fruit production, and improves overall soil health. (SPA)

“Through extensive field trials and research into global best practices, I have gained insights into worm behavior, needs, and breeding techniques,” Al-Shaer explained in an interview with the SPA. His operation has since expanded to four tanks, producing enough vermicompost to fertilize roughly 250 trees on his property.

The benefits of this organic fertilizer are manifold. It accelerates plant growth, enhances fruit production, and improves overall soil health.

FASTFACT

Mohammed Al-Shaer’s venture began approximately a year ago with a simple setup: a single 5-meter-long, 60 cm-high tank housing roughly 2,000 worms.

Al-Shaer added: “The worms naturally enhance soil quality, optimize nutrient cycling for crops, and develop sound agricultural practices to enhance the production of fruits and vegetables.”

Looking ahead, the farmer aims to scale up his project to develop it into a comprehensive operation that produces large quantities of worm compost.

He also intends to raise awareness about this ecofriendly practice among fellow farmers through agricultural festivals in Saudi Arabia, encouraging his contemporaries to use organic fertilizer as an alternative to chemical fertilizers, which can harm soil, plants, and human health.

Local officials, notably Fahd Al-Zahrani, director general of the branch of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture in Baha, have expressed support for the proposal.

Dr. Lubna Saad, an associate professor of applied nutrition at Al-Baha University, emphasized the scientific benefits of vermicomposting, describing it as a potent mixture of worm castings and processed organic matter.

“These worms consume most of the organic inputs, transforming them into vermicompost,” Saad said in an interview with the SPA.

“The resulting material is then sifted and filtered, producing a ready-to-use fertilizer suitable for all types of agricultural fields. It significantly enhances the soil’s ability to absorb and retain water.”

Farmers participating in the recent Khayrat Al-Baha Festival praised Al-Shaer’s initiative, noting improvements in their crop quality after using organic fertilizer, the SPA reported.