Saudi Arabia's Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) has announced the arrival of two Arabian leopards who were born in a captive-breeding programme.
"The cubs, now part of our pride of Arabian Leopards, were born in a captive-breeding programme at the Arabian Leopard Breeding Center in Taif, Saudi Arabia," the RCU said in a statement.
A video of the two cubs – both females – playing together was shared on Twitter by the RCU last week.
The news was also welcomed by the US embassy in Riyadh who tweeted: "We congratulate Saudi Arabia on the birth of two female Arabian leopard cubs. RCU is doing a great job when it comes to preserving one of the most endangered animals."
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The Arabian leopard is a subspecies of leopard native to the Arabian Peninsula and is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List as "critically endangered", partly brought about by poaching and loss of habitat. The elusive animal's population in the wild is thought to be no more than 200 with the largest population found in Oman's Dhofar Mountains.
The RCU's captive breeding programme and conservation initiatives aim to restore the Arabian leopard population and prepare a suitable habitat in which they can thrive, the species will eventually be reintroduced into the wilderness in the mountains of AlUla, reported the Saudi Gazette.
In February, the kingdom celebrated its first Arabian Leopard Day and is due to continue marking the day annually on 10 February to raise awareness about the endangered big cat.