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Following the United Nations declaration of the first International Day of the Arabian Leopard, on 10 February the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) continues to expand its long-term mission to safeguard the ‘Critically Endangered’ Big Cat species from the physical world into the virtual.

As part of RCU’s new ‘Leap of Hope’ campaign, this year’s international edition of the annual call-to-action to conserve Arabian Leopards includes the launch of the ‘Quest for Hope’ gaming experience on the Roblox and Decentraland online platforms.

Named ‘Leap of Hope’ after the Arabian Leopard’s athletic prowess and ability to capture its prey in the wild, this year’s campaign also emphasises the pressing need to increase wild population numbers – a ‘leap’ being the collective noun for a group of leopards.

Starting today, the ‘Leap of Hope’ campaign will install eye-catching billboards in cities including Beijing, London, New York, and Paris to showcase its bold ambition as well as to highlight RCU’s goal to comprehensively regenerate AlUla, a vast swathe of northwest Saudi Arabia, as a leading global destination for cultural and natural heritage.

In AlUla itself, a Community Catwalk event on International Day of the Arabian Leopard, organised by RCU and Catmosphere, will encourage members of the public to connect with nature as they follow a route of up to 7km on Sharaan’s Catwalk Trail, drawing local attention to the campaign and its long-term goals in northwest Arabia and beyond.

In the digital space, an immersive adventure, ‘Quest for Hope’ engages global gamers to discover the real-world impact of the Arabian Leopard’s ‘Critically Endangered’ status in the wild by joining a virtual conservation mission to search expertly recreated digital landscapes that mirror the Big Cats’ native habitat, including the mountains of AlUla in northwest Arabia.

The new state-of-the-art and engaging game complements the release of a campaign film that takes the viewer on a deep dive into the plight of the Arabian Leopard, explaining the essential role leopards play in restoring balance to the natural environment and allowing vital eco-systems to flourish.

Arabian Leopard Day was first launched by RCU in 2022. In June 2023, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution designating 10 February as the International Day of the Arabian Leopard, in support of RCU and its conservation partners.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) ranks the Arabian Leopard as ‘Critically Endangered’, representing a level of

‘Quest for Hope’ on Roblox and Decentraland engages global gamers to discover the real-world impact of the Arabian Leopard’s ‘Critically Endangered’ status

risk more severe than Vulnerable or Endangered. If the population continues to decline, the next stages on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species are Extinct in the Wild and, lastly, Extinct.

RCU’s Arabian Leopard Conservation Breeding Programme has achieved recent successes in ensuring a healthy population of leopards in captivity, welcoming the birth of seven healthy cubs in 2023 and introducing new Arabian Leopard ‘founders’ to increase the genetic diversity of its breeding animals and contribute to the advancement of long-term conservation goals.

Dr Stephen Browne, Wildlife & Natural Heritage Vice President at RCU, said: “International Day of the Arabian Leopard Day is an important opportunity to draw the world’s attention to the plight of the Arabian Leopard and RCU’s mission to conserve and safeguard AlUla’s natural environment.

“While recent successes give us hope, we recognise that the work of conservation must continue to ensure that this species can one day thrive in the wild. We encourage the international community to join us on Arabian Leopard Day by engaging with activities that strengthen our understanding and love for these magnificent Big Cats.”

For more information on the day, visit https://www.rcu.gov.sa/en/ArabianLeopard