● The Sharaan Nature Reserve was announced as part of the Launching the Vision for AlUla event and will focus on the conservation of natural heritage by restoring the region’s ecosystem and conservation of threatened species ● RCU will create the largest fund for the endangered Arabian Leopard worldwide, based on global benchmarks ● Ten Nubian ibexes, 10 red-necked ostriches, and 20 idmi gazelles were reintroduced into the reserve at the Royal Commission’s Launching the Vision for AlUla event The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) announced the Sharaan Nature Reserve as one of its key strategic projects at its Launching the Vision for AlUla event. Set in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s northwest region, AlUla contains a number of archaeological treasures and ancient cities, with evidence of major civilizations including most notably the Dadan/Lihyan and the Nabataean kingdoms. Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the prominent southern capital of the Nabataeans. AlUla is a place of spectacular natural beauty, with varied habitats that once thrived with life, co-existing with our early ancestors, as seen through rock inscriptions in the valleys of AlUla. As such, the canyon area of Sharaan has been designated a nature reserve focused on the conservation of natural heritage of the region. Governor of RCU and Minister of Culture HH Prince Badr bin Abdullah al Saud: “The beautiful canyon area of Sharaan is now a designated Nature Reserve, setting a new standard in the region for re-balancing ecosystems and reflecting Saudi Arabia’s commitment to protecting the natural environment of AlUla. The Sharaan Nature Reserve initiative includes the establishment of a global fund for the protection and reproduction of the Arabian leopard.” The development of the nature reserve focuses on the rehabilitation of the region’s natural ecosystem, development of vegetation by planting indigenous acacia trees and reintroduction of wild species into the reserve based on global standards, specifically per the International Union for Conservation of Nature Reintroduction Guidelines. During the event, local park rangers trained by the Saudi Wildlife Authority together with the Mweka Wildlife College in Tanzania released 10 Nubian ibexes, 10 red-necked ostriches and 20 idmi gazelles into the reserve. These species face numerous threats in the wild, and their numbers have been declining rapidly. Mohammad Sulayem, Head of Nature at the Royal Commission, stated: “Rehabilitating the natural habitat and reintroducing endangered species into a nature reserve, has immense impact on the biodiversity of the region. We’re excited to be working with global experts, our adept team at RCU, and the community of AlUla to restore Sharaan’s natural ecosystem.” Moreover, RCU has announced a second key conservation project: The Global Fund for the Arabian Leopard. The Global Fund for the Arabian Leopard will have an initial endowment of US$25M, the largest fund in the world wholly dedicated to safeguarding the Arabian Leopard. The Sharaan Nature Reserve, as well as other sites, could act as release area, for the future Arabian Leopard reintroduction. Kate Hall-Tipping, Head of Heritage, Nature, Arts & Culture at RCU, said: “The Arabian Leopard is so symbolic of the rich natural heritage that AlUla has to offer. What better way to commit to conservation than doing everything in our power to protect these big cats?” As part of its strategic roadmap to 2035, RCU plans to engage the local community and contribute SAR 120bn in growth of the Kingdom’s GDP by 2035 through the projects announced at Launching the Vision for AlUla.