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MAKKAH: The Royal Commission for AlUla has taken significant steps to safeguard and increase the population of Arabian leopards. Through collaboration with conservation organizations and the establishment of reserves, the commission has proven itself steadfast in its mission to ensure that Arabian leopards survive — and thrive — for generations to come.

The RCU told Arab News that the preservation of the endangered Arabian leopard requires a meticulous approach to breeding.

“The methodology employed in breeding these leopards is a testament to the commitment and scientific rigor involved in this endeavor,” the commission said.

“There are several steps involved in breeding Arabian leopard. First, the enclosures need to be well prepared to house a male and a female separately. The RCU builds large enclosures that are divided into two to three sections to start the introduction process between a male and a female.

“Second, the pairs are specifically selected based on their genetics as well as their behavior. Third, after placing the selected pair in the breeding enclosures, they will have the chance to only see and observe each other through gates, where the staff will monitor them closely to record their behavior and focus on positive signs between the pair, such as rubbing, vocalizing and rolling from females.

“After detecting positive signs, for example, no aggression from the male and rolling from the female, the team will start the real introduction process by rotating the pair through the sections where they can start to smell each other scents.”

The commission said that the fourth step involves allowing the pair to be together completely, while closely monitoring their behavior. Once they start mating, every encounter is recorded by the team, as is the frequency of mating and whether or not the attempt was successful.

“The Arabian leopard is known to be slightly difficult to breed as the majority of females do not get pregnant immediately. They require several estrus cycles and several months until they get pregnant. Therefore, once a female stops showing estrus signs, the team will start to count the days from her last mating and assume pregnancy.

“Once she surpasses the pseudopregnancy period, the pregnancy signs will start to show, and she will be separated from the male. Gestation for the Arabian leopard is around 90-107 days depending on the female’s cycle. The average female gives birth to one or two cubs, and they will stay with their mother until they are up to 18 months old,” the RCU said.

The commission has established a breeding center in Taif that contains 27 leopards so far and has prepared multiple reserves throughout AlUla to house more leopards in the future. The RCU also collaborates with other organizations involved in conservation, such as the Arabian Leopard Fund and Panthera.

“The commission’s comprehensive efforts in breeding and protecting the Arabian leopard reflect a profound dedication to the conservation of this iconic species. As the breeding center continues to expand and evolve, the long-term strategy remains focused on bolstering the Arabian leopard population and facilitating their reintroduction into their natural habitat,” the RCU said.

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