Saudi Arabia’s Royal Commision for Al Ula (R.C.U) has recently announced the birth of two Arabian leopard cubs. The two cubs, one male, and one female were born on April 26 at the Prince Saud Al-Faisal Wildlife Research Centre in Taif in the north-west of Saudi Arabia.
The conception forms a part of the RCU’s breeding program to help preserve and eventually reintroduce the critically endangered big cat subspecies back into the wild in the north-west of the Kingdom.
Both the cubs have successfully passed the 12-week development milestone and will remain with their 10-year-old mother Hamms (which means “whisper” in Arabic) for the next 18 to 24 months as per the international guidelines for breeding initiatives.
This breakthrough is only the beginning of the long-term breeding program, which was initiated by a $20 million partnership between RCU and cat species preservation organization Panthera. The initiative aims to reintroduce leopards around the Al Ula through an environmental revitalization plan, including captive breeding centers and reductions of overgrazing to incorporate more food sources in the leopard’s diet; as well as community engagement programs to educate the public on Arabian leopards, and how they can help them.
Describing the efforts of the Kingdom, Minister of Culture and RCU Governor His Highness Prince Badr Bin Abdullah Bin Mohammad Bin Farhan Al Saud, “With fewer the 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 leopards are unable to see when born, and only open their eyes after a week or more. The cubs are also unable to leave their dens for four to five weeks, which is why the 12-week examination period was crucial for the new-born cubs. However, both the cubs are successfully learning behavioral traits, growing stronger, and generating hope for the rest of their species.