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Birth of Arabian leopard cub in Saudi Arabia hailed as important step in efforts to save species

Wed, 2021-09-29 08:09

JEDDAH: A female Arabian leopard cub has been born in Saudi Arabia, authorities announced on Tuesday.

The Royal Commission for AlUla described the birth as an important step toward saving an endangered species and achieving the goal of rehabilitating local ecosystems.

The cub was born on April 23 at the Arabian Leopard Breeding Center in the Prince Saud Al-Faisal Wildlife Research Center in Taif, which is operated by the commission. She is the latest of 16 born as part of the captive-breeding program. The gender was determined when her first health check was carried out on July 13.

“This successful birth confirms that it is not too late to save the Arabian leopard,” said Amr Al-Madani, the CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla. Efforts to save such endangered species from extinction are critical to the battle to protect the planet and restore the natural balance of ecosystems, which is a goal of the commission, he added.

Today we are celebrating the successful birth of an #ArabianLeopard cub, an important milestone in our journey to reintroduce this #Leopard species to its natural habitat in #AlUla and the wider region. #MeetOurCub and explore our work here: https://t.co/671K8dEfkk pic.twitter.com/PznVyTJVr3

— الهيئة الملكية لمحافظة العلا (@RCU_SA) September 28, 2021

The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the Arabian leopard as “critically endangered.” Its numbers in the wild have declined to fewer than 200 as a result of poaching and the loss of its natural habitat.

The commission’s efforts to save the species include a number of initiatives, including the expansion of the breeding program through the upcoming opening of an Arabian Leopard center at the Sharaan Nature Reserve in AlUla, and the establishment of the Arab Leopard Fund, to which the commission has allocated $25 million.

The strategy is in line with the Saudi Green Initiative, which was launched this year, one of the aims of which is to establish 80 percent of AlUla — a UNESCO World Heritage site — as a nature reserve.

The program to save the Arabian leopard, and eventually reintroduce it to the wild in AlUla, also includes plans to reintroduce natural prey species such as the Nubian ibex and the mountain gazelle, along with the training of local people as park rangers to protect the reserves.

Images of Arabian leopards can be found among ancient rock art in several parts of AlUla, revealing the governorate’s rich natural environment throughout history.

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