Arabian Leopard Fund announces scholarship to help conservationists save endangered big cats

Arabian Leopard Fund announces scholarship to help conservationists save endangered big cats
Arabian Leopard Fund announces scholarship to help conservationists save endangered big cats

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Arabian Leopard Fund announces scholarship to help conservationists save endangered big cats

RIYADH: The Arabian Leopard Fund has announced the launch of a 50-student scholarship program to provide the next generation of conservationists with the skills, knowledge and practical know-how they need to safeguard the future of the critically endangered Arabian leopard.

The Arabian leopard scholarship programme offers educational opportunities in fields related to conservation in the best global bachelor programs. Part of the AlUla scholarships programme, the intake of 50 Saudi men and women, selected from a highly competitive batch of 300 applicants from AlUla, will pursue specializations at the bachelor degree level.

A first-of-its-kind initiative, it builds on the fund’s long-term investment in capacity-building for future conservation leaders and experts around the region.

The fund’s ecosystem of training projects includes a fully funded five-year partnership with the Durrell Conservation Academy in the UK and a training program at the Arabian Leopard Conservation Breeding Center, held in close collaboration with the Royal Commission for AlUla, providing valuable skills development for the care of the Arabian leopard.

The scholarship was announced at the opening of the Arabian Leopard Fund’s new headquarters in Riyadh.

The announcement follows the first UN-recognized International Day of the Arabian Leopard, which was officially marked on Feb. 10.

The UN in June last year designated Feb. 10 as the International Day of the Arabian Leopard.

The scholarship announcement complements the official release of the Arabian leopard endowment, a series of micro-grants aimed at bolstering research and conservation efforts to rejuvenate populations of Arabian leopards. 

With a total allocation of SR1 million ($266,000), the grant will empower international conservationists, veterinarians and scientists to engage in cutting-edge conservation work by offering targeted financial assistance to amplify their efforts.

By enabling a broad spectrum of stakeholders to undertake essential research and fieldwork, the grant acts as a crucial tool for devising new strategies and efforts for tracking, protecting, and increasing the Arabian leopard population, ensuring the species’ recovery and future sustainability.

The sectorial capacity-building programs and grants are substantial advancements that will help galvanize the conservation community, supporting its overarching objective to prevent the extinction of the Arabian leopard.

Established with an initial endowment of $25 million by royal decree in 2020, the Arabian Leopard Fund addresses the urgent challenge posed by the steep decline in Arabian leopard populations, currently designated as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Saudi Arabia’s commitment to Arabian leopard conservation, as outlined in the Vision 2030 plan, underscores a dedication to ecological and biodiversity protection. 

Through its conservation initiatives and programs, the Arabian Leopard Fund is at the forefront of restoring the ecological balance in the region.

Waleed Aldayel, managing director of the Arabian Leopard Fund, said: “The Arabian leopard grant is a significant step in the global wildlife conservation narrative, showcasing Saudi Arabia’s leadership in environmental stewardship and commitment to preserving the natural heritage of the Arabian leopard for generations to come.

“The launch of the scholarship program, along with the availability of new and important sources of funding via the Arabian Leopard Grant, expands our work to new regions, communities and destinations while at the same time inviting the development and nurturing of new ideas that will help us to achieve our long-term goal — to safeguard the future of the Arabian leopard.

“We congratulate our first batch of scholars who will help us shape the future of Arabian leopard conservation and look forward to doubling down on our initiatives in the months ahead, all of which brings us closer to saving this rare sub-species.”

The Arabian Leopard Fund grant programme is currently accepting applications, and invites conservationists, researchers, veterinarians and other interested individuals to apply for this transformative conservation endeavour.

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