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The first celebration of Arabian Leopard Day

In Saudi Arabia, February 10 officially becomes Arabian Leopard Day. Beyond an intensive fight to save an endangered species, this event is a manifestation of national efforts to preserve and rehabilitate the cultural and natural landscape of AlUla, this exceptional oasis.

The Arabian leopard appeared in the Arabian Peninsula about 500,000 years ago and is now listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Indeed, there would remain less than 200 cats of this family, of which only about fifty in the wild. Moreover, the remaining populations are so small, isolated, fragmented and threatened that they may no longer be able to ensure the reproduction of their species.



Initiatives with global reach

The Al Ula Royal Commission (UCR) has therefore developed a conservation strategy that brings together various initiatives. First of all, an extensive captive breeding program has been launched. After the birth of two Arabian leopards in the kingdom in 2019, a new female was born in 2021. These births symbolize a real gain for the Saudi cultural and natural heritage. For the locals, the Arabian leopard has a long-standing symbolism linked to beauty, tranquility, physical strength, fearlessness and freedom. The animal has held a special place in the collective imagination for thousands of years, and is found in ancient rock art, in many stories, and in local vocabulary.

A World Fund for the Arabian Leopard was also created in December 2020 by the Saudi Minister of Culture and Governor of the UCR, Prince Badr Bin Farhan. Its mission is “to ensure a viable and sustainably managed population of the Arabian leopard, its wild prey and natural habitats in coexistence with local communities.” UCR has allocated $25 million to the conservation of the Arabian leopard, and several partnerships have been undertaken, including a three-year agreement with IUCN and the NGO Panthera.

The AlUla site: a nature reserve in the making

The AlUla oasis is of great importance in this fight to save the leopard, since 80% of its area will be converted into a nature reserve, in accordance with the plan announced at the Saudi Green Initiative to preserve the environment. In the long term, the objective is to reintroduce the species into the wild to allow it a free and protected life.

In the long term, the Sharran Reserve will help restore and strengthen ecosystems, especially plants and wildlife, over an area of 1,560 square kilometers. In addition to the Arabian leopard, the Nubian ibex and mountain gazelle will also be a focus of the project. Residents of AlUla will also be trained as forest rangers to engage local people.

Illuminated Arabian Leopard Monuments

The inauguration of Arabian Leopard Day will illuminate many historical and cultural monuments in Saudi Arabia and Dubai, such as the Elephant Rock in AlUla and the Burj Khalifa.