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Arabian Leopard Breeding Programme Welcomes New Cubs

Arabian Leopard Breeding Programme Welcomes New Cubs
The cubs were born at RCU’s Conservation Breeding Centre in Taif, Saudi Arabia. (SPA)

The Arabian leopard, once reigning across the Arabian Peninsula, has been grappling with the brink of extinction due to relentless habitat destruction and hunting.

However, a glimmer of hope shines through the efforts of conservation breeding programs, which recently celebrated the arrival of seven new cubs, a beacon of hope for this majestic creature’s future.

A Critical Breakthrough in Conservation Efforts

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) in Saudi Arabia has made remarkable progress in Arabian leopard conservation by welcoming seven new cubs into their breeding center in Taif, bringing the number of leopards in the center to 27, a significant rise from the original 14 when the project started in 2020​​​​.

These births are pivotal for the initiative to lift the breed’s “critically endangered” status, as designated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Nurturing the Next Generation

Five of the seven cubs are being nurtured by their mothers, promoting a strong maternal bond essential for their development.

The remaining two, abandoned by their mother — a not uncommon occurrence — are receiving around-the-clock care from dedicated RCU staff members.

This involves constant supervision, sleep near the cubs, and feeding them every couple of hours, following strict conservation protocols​​.

This meticulous attention underscores the importance of each cub for the survival of the species.

Beyond Breeding: Reintroducing Leopards to the Wild

While celebrating the new births, the RCU’s vision extends further — the reintroduction of these leopards into the wild. This aligns with the broader goals of Saudi Vision 2030, aiming for the comprehensive restoration of AlUla’s natural environment​​.

The RCU, in partnership with Panthera, plans to release the first captive-bred leopards into the Sharaan Nature Reserve by 2030, a protected habitat spanning 925 square kilometers​​.

The Road Ahead for Arabian Leopard Conservation

Despite these successes, the Arabian leopard remains critically endangered with fewer than 200 individuals estimated to be in the wild.

The conservation efforts have been augmented by significant financial commitments, including a $25 million endowment for conservation and a 10-year, $20 million agreement with Panthera​​.

These endeavors are intertwined with educational and community engagement programs to ensure local support and to underline the interconnectedness of human prosperity and biodiversity conservation​​.

The journey of the Arabian leopard from near extinction towards revival in the wild is laden with challenges but fortified by the dedication of conservationists and global awareness campaigns.

The arrival of the new cubs stands as a testament to what can be achieved and a reminder of the ongoing fight to preserve these emblematic big cats for future generations.


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