HH Prince Badr bin Abdullah Al-Saud, Minister of Culture and RCU Governor, formally signs agreement with Panthera Chairman Dr. Thomas Kaplan
Commission commits to investing $US 20 million over 10 years to aid world conservation of the leopard and revitalise the Arabian leopard population
Formal agreement signed amidst stunning natural beauty of the AlUla landscape
KSA, AlUla: His Highness Prince Badr bin Abdullah Al-Saud, the Minister of Culture and Governor of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), has signed an agreement with Dr. Thomas Kaplan, the Chairman of Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organisation, to support important regional and international conservation initiatives.
The signing ceremony was held at Ashar in the heart of AlUla county and signifies RCU joining The Global Alliancefor Wild Cats with a commitment to invest $US 20 million over the next 10 years to conservation measures, with a focus on the critically endangered Arabian leopard, which is indigenous to AlUla.
Both the RCU and Panthera share a deep-rooted passion for conservation and are committed to working together to champion the revitalisation of the Arabian leopard.
This will be achieved through several initiatives including the establishment of a global fund focused on the protection and enhancement of remaining wild populations, captive breeding programmes, international collaborations, community-based conservation projects and scientific research to support the future of this rare species.
The Arabian Leopard Initiatives (ALI) that will be at the heart of the agreement with Panthera are fully aligned with the objectives of the RCU Charter and its goals to deliver a sensitive and responsible transformation of the AlUla region and its unique constellation of heritage, nature and art.
Commenting on the importance of the new agreement, His Highness Prince Badr bin Abdullah Al-Saud, said: “The signing of the agreement is a major milestone in our shared ambitions to reintroduce the Arabian leopard population in the region and join global partners to support the preservation of these wild cat populations worldwide. It is our duty to protect, conserve and build the population numbers to preserve the species from becoming a footnote of history.”
His Highness continued, “Our partnership with Panthera will help ensure that populations in other countries around the world are preserved before they reach the levels of endangerment faced today by our precious native big cats.”
RCU CEO, Amr AlMadani, also thanked Panthera Chairman Dr. Thomas Kaplan and CEO and President Dr. Fred Launay for their personal commitments to the conservation of the Arabian leopard and for making journeys to AlUla to see for themselves the nature conservation efforts underway in the county:
“This agreement would not be possible without the enthusiastic and passionate support of Thomas and his team at Panthera. Working together we will create a global fund for the preservation of the Arabian Leopard that will both support captive breeding programmes and their careful reintroduction into the wild. The skills and expertise of the Panthera team will place a crucial goal in achieving our shared ambition.”
Panthera Chairman Dr. Thomas Kaplan commented: “The Arabian Leopard Initiatives (“ALI”), announced by The Royal Commission for AlUla (“RCU”) under the leadership of its Governor, His Highness Prince Badr bin Abdullah Al-Saud, are a testament to the power of individuals to alter the trajectory of a species – away from extinction and towards rebirth.”
Dr. Kaplan continued, “I am particularly grateful that the RCU has not only chosen to invest in bringing back the Kingdom’s own leopards, but has also joined – together with Indian, Chinese, Emirati, and American partners – in Panthera’s Global Alliance for Wild Cats. This constitutes a truly exceptional act of environmental statesmanship in this day and age. I applaud such visionary leadership and urge more governments to follow in their inspired path.”
In his concluding remarks at the agreement signing ceremony, RCU CEO Amr AlMadani added: “Being able to create a future where magnificent Arabian leopards can once more roam freely within the Sharaan Nature Reserve we are developing is one that we cannot wait to see. Such a beautiful natural landscape as AlUla is a fitting home for some of the world’s most magnificent animals.”
Located 1,100 km from Riyadh, in North-West Saudi Arabia, AlUla is a place of extraordinary natural and human heritage. The vast area, covering 22,561km², includes a lush oasis valley, towering sandstone mountains and ancient cultural heritage sites dating back thousands of years to when the Lihyan and Nabataean kingdoms reigned.
The most well-known and recognised site in AlUla is Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. A 52-hectare ancient city, Hegra was the principal southern city of the Nabataean Kingdom and is comprised of more than 100 well preserved tombs with elaborate facades cut out of the sandstone outcrops surrounding the walled urban settlement. Current research suggests Hegra was the most southern outpost of the Roman Empire after conquering the Nabataeans in 106 CE.
In addition to Hegra, AlUla is home to a series of fascinating historical and archaeological sites such as: Ancient Dadan, the capital of the Dadan and Lihyan Kingdoms, which is considered one of the most developed 1st-millennium BCE cities of the Arabian Peninsula; thousands of ancient rock art sites and inscriptions; and Hijaz Railway stations.
About The Royal Commission for AlUla
The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) was established by royal decree in July 2017 to protect and safeguard AlUla, a region of outstanding natural and cultural significance in North-West Saudi Arabia. RCU is embarking on a long-term plan to develop and deliver a sensitive, sustainable transformation of the region, reaffirming it as one of the country's most important archaeological and cultural destinations and preparing it to welcome visitors from around the world. RCU’s development work in AlUla encompasses a broad range of initiatives across archaeology, tourism, culture, education and the arts, reflecting the ambitious commitment to cultivate tourism and leisure in Saudi Arabia, outlined in Vision 2030.
Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to preserving wild cats and their critical role in the world’s ecosystems. Panthera’s team of leading biologists, law enforcement experts and wild cat advocates develop innovative strategies based on the best available science to protect cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, pumas, snow leopards and tigers and their vast landscapes. In 36 countries around the world, Panthera works with a wide variety of stakeholders to reduce or eliminate the most pressing threats to wild cats – securing their future, and ours.