A female Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) cub was successfully bred by the Breeding Centre for Arabian Endangered Wildlife (BCEAW) in the UAE emirate of Sharjah last month.
Classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Arabian leopard sub-species is native to the Arabian Peninsula.
With fewer than 250 mature animals worldwide, the BCEAW has bred 37 cubs of this species since 1998; six did not survive and six have been transferred to other facilities in the emirates of Dubai, al-Ain, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
The Breeding Centre in the emirate is currently home to 30 Arabian leopards, of which 25 were born at the facility, one is on loan from Abu Dhabi, three from Saudi Arabia and one was brought in after it was caught in the wild areas of Yemen.
Born on Aug. 4, 2012, weighing 375 grams, the female cub is genetically important as she is the first female cub at the centre not from the Omani line.
Cubs need permanent observation, and are monitored on CCTV positioned in the enclosure, as they are born blind and very vulnerable.
Although the cubs are raised at the Breeding Centre, “there is a long term hope that the leopards will be released into the wild, although obviously they will be placed in protected areas and a level of public awareness is vital,” Dr Jane Budd, a veterinarian at BCEAW, told Al Arabiya English.
In the Arabian Peninsula, leopards are known from just one location in Yemen and one in Oman. In addition, only a few individuals survive in the Judean Desert and Negev Highlands. As a result, the centre is committed to ensuring a safe environment for the leopards it releases.
“They would have to be protected areas, there are very good areas in Saudi Arabia and Oman as they need to be big enough to support wild leopards,” said Dr Jane Budd.
The Arabian leopard is threatened by habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, hunting of its wild prey and retaliatory killing in defense of livestock.
Andy, the first cub to be born at the Breeding Centre, is currently on display at Arabia’s Wildlife Centre as the BCEAW is closed to the public.