Between 50 and 200 Arabian leopards are thought to survive in the wild
Royal Commission for AlUla launches fund to support international efforts to preserve critically endangered species
Saudi Arabia’s Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) today launched The Arabian Leopard Fund to save the critically endangered Arabian leopard from extinction.
It’s estimated that only 50 to 200 Arabian leopards survive in the wild, mostly in southern Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen. The graceful predator is already extinct in the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan.
The Arabian Leopard Fund will help inspire communities and decision makers to protect some of the world’s most delicate ecosystems. It will be headquartered in Riyadh and London.
“There is a real risk of extinction for the Arabian leopards in the wild, with numbers potentially as low as 50. Efforts solely directed at conserving the leopards in their natural habitat are likely to be insufficient. At this critical point, both in situ conservation and captive breeding are necessary to save the animal.”
The RCU has already announced plans to reintroduce the Arabian leopard to AlUla, building on work by the Saudi Wildlife Authority, which has overseen a captive breeding programme at the Prince Saud al Faisal Wildlife Research Centre at Taif, Saudi Arabia. Eighteen cubs have been born at the centre since 2008.
The Arabian Leopard Fund will work to seed, scale, and sustain the best insights, partnerships, and action to support ecosystems with viable wild Arabian leopard populations. It will be a world leader in its approach, using new, flexible ways to fund and partner with programmes and unlock changes in conservation.
Humans are the major threat to the Arabian leopard. Growing human settlements and expanding agriculture have caused loss of habitat, and hunting of ibexes and gazelles reduces available prey. Humans also deliberately target leopards to protect livestock or settlements. Raising public awareness of the plight of the leopard and the lack of protected areas to conserve them is a key strategy.
As well as engaging communities, The Arabian Leopard Fund will help will finance initiatives that help to protect the key leopard sites and restore their natural environments. The fund will also help finance initiatives that help accelerate reintroduction programmes.
As well as in-situ programmes, the fund will support captive breeding programmes. In addition to the programme at the Prince Saud al Faisal Wildlife Research Centre, there is a programme at the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. A total of 98 Arabian leopards are in Middle East breeding facilities.
“Despite the bleak picture today, there is hope for the species’ survival,” said XXX. “The numbers of the golden lion tamarin have increased from fewer than 200 in the 1980s to more than 1,000 presently in the wild today. His was achieved through captive breeding, habitat conservation and reintroductions. These are techniques we will support to help the Arabian leopard."
Located 1,100km 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 Romans 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.