Monday, June 2, 2014

Monies pledged to save the wild cats

An Arabian leopard rests at the Arabian Wildlife Centre on Al Dhaid road in Sharjah. Experts say projects to study and protect such large cat species can benefit from philanthropic initiatives. Pawan Singh / The National

Dh294m pledge to save the wild cats

ABU DHABI // Donors from the UAE, India, China and the United States have pledged a total of Dh293.8million for the conservation of large wild cats.
The 10-year initiative will work on protecting large cat species across the world and will be implemented through Panthera, a US-based conservation organisation founded in 2006.
Four philanthropists, including Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, have pledged an equal share of the total.
Also contributing were Jho Low, chief executive of Jynwel Capital and director of the Jynwel Charitable Foundation Limited, Hong Kong, Hemendra Kothari, chairman of DSP Blackrock India and the Wildlife Conservation Trust, and Dr Thomas Kaplan, chairman of the Electrum Group of companies and founder and chairman of Panthera.

The pledge was the first step in a campaign targeting US$200 million [Dh734.6m) for wild cat conservation, which, Dr Kaplan, explained, also helped to protect the animals that the large carnivores rely on for foods, as well as eco-systems as a whole. “The big cats represent not only the iconic and the charismatic megafauna in the areas that they inhabit but they are a means by which one can effect landscape-wide conservation,” he said. “By saving the big cats, one can, with one step, save vast areas of precious, irreplaceable habitats around the world.”

The UAE’s contribution to the cause will be managed through the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, which has already provided almost Dh40.4m for more than a thousand grass-roots conservation programmes around the globe in nearly five years.
The UAE’s Dh73.5 million contribution was on top of an endowment to the fund previously made by Sheikh Mohammed. “Abu Dhabi yet again has demonstrated that it is a cornerstone of exchange between East and West and also as a bridge for working together to make the world a better place,” said Razan Al Mubarak, managing director of the fund.

Like the fund’s already established track record, the new programme will have a global impact, said Ms Al Mubarak, who is also the secretary general of the Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi. “We are talking about the snow leopard in the Himalayas, we are talking about the tigers in the Far East and South-East Asia, we are talking about the cougars, the jaguars in the Americas, the cheetahs and lions and leopards in Africa,” she said.

Together with his wife, Dr Kaplan has also endowed the Recanati-Kaplan Centre at Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. “We anticipate that the Emirates will be able to be a beneficiary of the programme which was endowed by us at Oxford University in wildlife conservation management, so that the next generation of local Emirati wildlife conservation practitioners will be able to get the very best tools educationally, in order to be able to fulfil their mission,” said Dr Kaplan.

In the UAE and the rest of the Arabian Peninsular, projects to study and protect cats such as the Arabian leopard, can benefit from the initiative, said Dr Frederic Launay, acting director general of the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund. Populations of wild Arabian leopards still exist in the region – in Oman and Yemen – although they are not well studied, said Dr Launay. Even less is known about smaller local cat species such as the caracal and the sand cat. “Certainly these are the types of species that we try to increase the ... projects we have around,” he said. “The challenge here in the UAE, and in the region in general, is that we have got very few people who are actually working on those cat species.”



Global alliance to fund USD 80mn for wild cat conservation

Environmental philanthropists from India, China, the UAE and the US have agreed to provide USD 80 million to fund the conservation of tigers and other wild cats whose survival is under threat.

The announcement about this unique global alliance was made at a private ceremony yesterday in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The conservation of the wild cats will be done in association with Panthera, a New York-based organisation dedicated to ensuring the future of wild cats through scientific leadership and conservation action.

The guaranteed, 10-year commitment to cat conservation, undertaking unprecedented in its scale and scope, will fund the most effective solutions for conserving big cats so as to reduce poaching for local and international trade, retaliatory killing of large cats due to human-animal conflict, unsustainable hunting of prey, and the loss and fragmentation of habitat.

"The Wildlife Conservation Trust is delighted to join Panthera's Global Alliance, an unparallelled example of environmental collaboration," said Hemendra Kothari, Founder and Chairman of Wildlife Conservation Trust and Chairman of DSP Blackrock India.

"Having led by example in tiger conservation in India, it is heartening for the Wildlife Conservation Trust to be part of a truly unique international coalition that shares both our passion and commitment to the big cats - along with the determination to save them," Kothari said.

"The Wildlife Conservation Trust, Mumbai, works closely with the forest staff of 90 national parks and sanctuaries spread across 17 states of India to conserve several endangered species in addition to safeguarding India's threatened wildernesses", said Dr Anish Andheria, President and Executive Director of the Wildlife Conservation Trust.

"By joining Panthera's Global Alliance to conserve wild cats, WCT is attempting to attract the attention of committed international agencies to the plight and conservation needs of Indian wild cats and their habitats," he added.

"We are thrilled to welcome these impressive individuals to our team. With this new and broad support, Panthera's vision of regional and institutional partnerships has only just begun," said Panthera CEO, Dr Alan Rabinowitz.

The multi-year pledges catalyze the plan to help conserve wild cats, with a core focus on tigers, lions, snow leopards, leopards, clouded leopards, jaguars, cougars and cheetahs.

As a result of this commitment India will be benefited by the protection and stabilising of tiger and Asiatic lion populations.

It will also create a community-based conservation projects for safeguarding large cats, reducing killing and poaching of all large cats and protecting corridors that connect large cat populations.

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