International Arabian Leopard Day, a day dedicated to the critically endangered species to which the Sultanate of Oman is home, the first occurrence since February 10 was officially recognised by the United Nations in 2023, was observed across the region with awareness campaigns.
There are less than 200 Arabian leopards in the wild, and the dwindling numbers have led the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to classify these as critically endangered. In Oman, there are between 44 and 58 of these creatures, according to a study.
Accordingly, the Arabian leopard has been legally protected by several Royal Decrees and a ministerial decision No 101/02 which prohibit its hunting or capture. Under Royal Decree No 6/2003, the penalty for hunting or capturing Arabian leopards includes imprisonment for a minimum of six months and maximum five years, and a fine ranging between RO 1,000 and RO 5,000.
The Office for Conservation of Environment found the first scientific evidence of the Arabian leopard’s presence in two separate locations west of Dhalkut in Dhofar Governorate in November 2020. Around the end of last year, the Environment Authority (EA) stated that the rare sighting of three adult Arabian leopards together was captured by camera traps in the mountains of the governorate.
“The sightings of three adult Arabian leopards together are an indication of Oman’s successful efforts to conserve this rare species and the presence of a robust ecological system and biodiversity in Dhofar. However, the active involvement and awareness of the local community has been instrumental in the success of these conservation measures,” an official from the EA said.
“The authority's efforts are designed to adapt the Arabian Leopard Project’s management strategy to protect this critically endangered species from extinction.”
To mark the occasion and to raise awareness of this Critically Endangered Big Cat, the Royal Commission of AlUla has launched ‘A Leap of Hope’, an international campaign highlighting the need to increase Arabian leopards in the wild. The campaign was launched on Saturday with a beautifully shot video appearing across channels to social media in key markets including Beijing, London, New York, and Paris. Named ‘Leap of Hope’ after the Arabian leopard’s athletic prowess and ability to capture its prey in the wild, this year’s campaign also emphasises the pressing need to increase wild population numbers – a ‘leap’ being the collective noun for a group of leopards.
Speaking to the Observer, Dr Stephen Browne, Wildlife and Natural Heritage Vice President at RCU, said: "The International Day of the Arabian Leopard Day is an important opportunity to draw the world’s attention to the plight of the Arabian leopard and to conserve and safeguard AlUla’s natural environment."
“While recent successes give us hope, we recognise that the work of conservation must continue to ensure that this species can one day thrive in the wild. We encourage the international community to join us on Arabian Leopard Day by engaging with activities that strengthen our understanding and love for these magnificent big cats."
Starting from Saturday, the ‘Leap of Hope’ campaign will install eye-catching billboards in cities including Beijing, London, New York, and Paris to showcase its bold ambition as well as to highlight RCU’s goal to comprehensively regenerate AlUla, a vast swathe of northwest Saudi Arabia, as a leading global destination for cultural and natural heritage.