Saudi Arabia-Led Inaugural Catmosphere Parade Raises Awareness of Wildlife Conservation
RIYAD: Live music, painting, food trucks and hordes of wildlife lovers took to the streets of Saudi Arabia – and at events around the world – for the first ‘Catwalk’, hosted by the Saudi-led nonprofit Catmosphere on Saturday.
Participants and volunteers gathered at the start line of the 7 km walk to show their support and raise awareness of the living conditions of the seven big cats that the organization supports, including at an event in Al-Ammariya in Riyadh.
Catmosphere was started by Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United States, whose mission is to protect the lives and well-being of big cats. The association aims to amplify the efforts of Panthera, a US-based charity dedicated to the conservation of 40 species of feral cats.
Catmosphere focuses on lions, tigers, cheetahs, jaguars, pumas, leopards, and snow leopards.
With the walks open to the public, Princess Reema previously told Arab News, “’Catwalk’ aims for healthy habitat for big cats, and healthy habitats begin at home. A healthy, active lifestyle helps us respect our own bodies, and engaging with our environment gives us an appreciation for the fundamental role it plays in all of life. “Catwalk” invites us all to spark physical movement locally and in doing so, spark the big cat conservation movement globally. “
Walkers and runners kicked off around the world on November 6, with organizers reporting 10,000 participants in Saudi Arabia alone. Those who registered to participate could do so individually, in a group or as part of a company-organized event.
Abdullah Abdulrahman bin Saeed, Deputy Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, kicked off the march in Al-Ammariya with a speech thanking the crowd for their involvement.
“We thank everyone for coming here today to raise awareness of this important initiative launched by Her Royal Highness Princess Reema,” he said.
“We have launched 30 sites across the Kingdom … and we currently have over 10,000 registered volunteers, from Saudis to non-Saudis, who are now involved in raising awareness of this initiative,” the deputy minister added.
Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, Saudi Minister of Sports, Waleed Abdulkarim Elkhereiji, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal Al-Ibrahim, Minister of Economy and Planning, Khalid bin Bandar, Saudi Ambassador to the United Kingdom, and Saad Mohammed Alarify, head of the Saudi mission to the EU, also participated in the march.
“The event is international – we have Princess Reema attending in Washington, there are participants from Copenhagen, Egypt, all over Europe – so it’s a global event.”
A walker, named Abdulaziz, told Arab News: “It is honestly an amazing experience, and I am happy that I was able to be here and express my feelings for the tiger to help endangered species. .
In addition to the participation of the animal-loving adults, the organizers also made sure to offer a shorter hike called “Catwalk Cub” – a 700-meter run – for the kids to show their support.
One of the young participants was Mohammed, 11, who revealed that he was walking in support of Arab big cats.
While this was a family affair for Mohammed, who joined his siblings, other attendees were quick to praise the community spirit behind the event.
“A good friend of ours recommended this place and we thought it would be a wonderful event – it’s a great cause and a great place to do it, a great place to meet new people and chat,” participant Anthony Di Rosa told Arab News.
“I’m so happy to see a lot of people volunteering to run 7 km – it’s a great experience. I would love to share with people all over the world, we are here and we support this kind of initiative to protect all wildlife, ”social media influencer Muhanad Alhassoun told Arab News.
“The purpose of this walk is to protect wildlife… we are building the community and the environment and we have to protect them,” he added.
His sober statement echoes Panthera’s warnings that important species are threatened by habitat loss, with tigers, lions, leopards and cheetahs losing between 65% and 96% of their historic populations.
“The reality of the pandemic and the experience the whole world has just had of separating and isolating human communities due to COVID-19 is largely what was done to the big cats when we cut their territorial corridors and isolated them from their natural habitats in nature, ”said Princess Reema of the destruction of the big cat environments.
“Just as we have seen this impact on us, imagine what this impact has been on them. “Catwalk” hopes to highlight a very simple fact: that our collective well-being is interconnected, and therefore it is incumbent upon all of us to operate out of empathy and provide spaces in which we humans would like to live and thrive, and ensure the same for big cats, ”she added.
And while the general public at the event in Riyadh seemed to have taken this message to heart, public officials also took to Twitter to show their support. Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Spain Azzam Al-Qain thanked Arab countries for their participation.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the brothers and sisters, the ambassadors of accredited Arab countries, the Libyan school and its staff, the mayor of Madrid and those in charge of Rotero Park for your active participation in the event. Together we save endangered cats, ”he wrote.
From Riyadh to the colder climates of Europe, there were many walkers and AlUla participants organized a special event in support of the Arabian leopard.
The AlUla walk took place in the Sharaan Protected Nature Reserve, where residents, visitors and staff of the Royal Commission for AlUla gathered to show their support for the critically endangered big cat, including less of 200 are believed to be living in the wild.
URC has already committed $ 25 million to the Arabian Leopard Fund, an independent organization launched by the commission to work across the leopard’s home range to save the species.