At the heart of AlUla's evolution into a premier tourist destination lies an unwavering dedication to its natural landscape, encompassing the sustainable conservation of the environment and the cultivation of a deep sense of stewardship for future generations. This commitment is apparent in Royal Commission for AlUla's (RCU) steadfast efforts to protect the critically endangered Arabian Leopard.
Through a captive breeding programme, robust funding, and a shared passion for wildlife and the environment, RCU is working tirelessly to bring Arabian Leopards back from the brink of extinction in the hopes of seeing the big cats once again roam AlUla’s wilderness.
A key member of RCU’s conservation team who is also making history in her own right, Zainab Almubarak is the first Saudi woman to work as a leopard keeper.
Playing an integral role in ensuring the safety and comfort of these big cats, Zainab credits a life-long fascination with animals as her inspiration for entering this field, where she stands out as a true trailblazer.
“I’ve always been curious to understand the behaviours of animals. This curiosity is what led me to travel to New Zealand and study animal management and welfare. After graduation I worked as a veterinary technician taking care of pets, not realising that I was the first Saudi woman to have this job,” said Zainab.
Zainab joined RCU in 2022 as a leopard keeper, behaviourist, and researcher. While her job is strenuous, requiring long hours outdoors in the heat, she says it is a dream come true.
“Working with such a unique and extraordinary animal is a privilege that many people do not get to experience in their lifetime,” Zainab said.
About the Arabian Leopard Fund
With fewer than 200 wild Arabian Leopards remaining in the Arabian Peninsula, RCU aims to reintroduce this species back into their natural habitat as part of a broader initiative to reestablish diverse flora and fauna in the wilderness of AlUla County.
By establishing the $25 million fund for Arabian Leopard conservation, the Arabian Leopard Programme and the RCU Breeding Centre in Taif, in addition to initiatives such as Arabian Leopard Day, RCU supports endangered species, habitats, and local communities. There are currently 20 leopards at the Taif Breeding Centre, with three cubs born last year.