Representing beacons of hope for a critically endangered subspecies, two Arabian leopard cubs – one male and one female - were born on April 26 at the Prince Saud Al-Faisal Wildlife Research Centre in Taif, Saudi Arabia, as recently announced by the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU).
Overseen by RCU, the Centre’s captive breeding program stands as a key component of the Arabian Leopard Initiatives (ALI), a newly formed collection of projects, carried out in partnership with Panthera, to recover this little known desert-dwelling wild cat.
Minister of Culture and Governor of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU)
With fewer than an estimated 200 Arabian leopards remaining in the wild globally, this is one of the most critically endangered animals in the world, and these cubs represent a new beacon of hope for the renewal of a subspecies on the brink of extinction. It is our duty to protect, conserve and build population numbers to preserve the species from becoming a footnote of history.
The Arabian Leopard Initiatives
The Arabian Leopard Initiatives (ALI) is a collection of projects designed to bring the region’s iconic Arabian leopard back from the brink of extinction. In preparation for the reintroduction of the Arabian leopard to the Sharaan Nature Reserve, the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) has commenced an environmental revitalization project to allow the Reserve to sustain healthy populations of the subspecies. Additionally, community engagement initiatives will be implemented to educate the public on the Arabian leopard and how behavior, including land use, can help the wild cat survive and prosper in the region.
Under a newly formed partnership announced in June 2019, Panthera will act as a partner to RCU as it develops and operates its Arabian Leopard Initiatives. HH Prince Badr bin Abdullah Al-Saud, RCU Governor and Minister of Culture, is the newest member of Panthera’s Global Alliance for Wild Cats, along with members from India, China, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. RCU’s collaboration with globally acclaimed conservation groups will ensure the implementation of best practices, as well as allowing RCU to benefit from the scientific knowledge and expertise of similarly minded organizations and experts.
The New Cubs
The cubs’ mother is ten-year-old Hamms, which means “whisper” in Arabic. Three months old at the end of July, the twins have successfully bonded with Hamms.
In the first 12 weeks of their lives, the cubs learned important behaviors and grew stronger in the seclusion of their den before they were visited and vaccinated.
The cubs will remain with their mother for the next 18 months to two years in line with global best practices for captive breeding programs.
A Lifeline for the
Panthera Chairman and Co-Founder Dr. Thomas S. Kaplan’s new commentary on Mongabay highlights the need for champions to advocate for the world’s most vulnerable species and for "holistic and urgent" measures to prevent us from losing them forever. As a model of innovation in wildlife conservation, the Royal Commission for AlUla's Arabian Leopard Initiatives, in partnership with Panthera, will provide a lifeline for the critically endangered Arabian Leopard.
Read the OpEd
Rewilding and Renewing Hope in AlUla
The exciting birth of a new generation of gazelle fawns in Saudi Arabia’s Sharaan Nature Reserve represents a significant step forward in rewilding the AlUla region after decades of destabilization in this fragile environment. But the development of Sharaan Nature Reserve is about more than supporting the gazelles; it also means restoring an entire ecosystem with a view to eventually reintroducing the elusive and critically endangered Arabian leopard.