By Binsal Abdul Kader
Abu Dhabi: Wild cats and people living in and around their habitats across the globe will have a better life thanks to a generous contribution from General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince.
Shaikh Mohammad has pledged to contribute $20 million (Dh73.4 million) to a collective fund of $80 million (Dh293.6 million) being established by him and three other environmental philanthropists from China, India and the US.
This global alliance is supporting a Cornerstone Funding for a $200 million (Dh734 million) programme for wild cats initiated by Panthera, a New York-based leading organisation working for conservation of wild cats.
All sections of people [irrespective of their religion, nationality, etc\ want one thing in common — a better life for their children, and this initiative will give better education and health care to thousands of children and their parents living around wild cat habitats, a senior executive of Panthera said.
Parents in rural Brazil are so keen to gain literacy and accompany their children to the schools established by Panthera as part of the wild cat conservation programme [in partnership with local communities\, Panthera Founder and Chairman of the Board Dr Thomas Kaplan said at a press briefing in Abu Dhabi along with other officials.
Shaikh Mohammad’s personal commitment will be managed through the Mohammad Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (MBZ SCF), established by him in 2009. Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary-General of the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the Managing Director of MBZ SCF, will represent the Fund as part of Panthera’s Board of Directors.
Shaikh Mohammad is honoured to partner with this conservation initiative that will be a very effective alliance over the next decade to help ensure that these iconic species thrive in their natural habitats, Razan said.
The $80 million collective fund has been committed for a period of ten years. It will immediately fund the most effective solutions for conserving big cats. The solutions will address poaching for local and international trade, retaliatory and punitive killing from conflict with humans, unsustainable hunting of prey, and the loss and fragmentation of habitat.
As the animals at the top of the food chain, these cats help maintain the delicate balance of the ecosystems which humans greatly depend on. Therefore wild cats serve as the flagship species for conserving large, wild landscapes.
Apart from Shaikh Mohammad, Jho Low, CEO of Jynwel Capital and Director of Jynwel Charitable Foundation Limited in Hong Kong; Hemendra Kothari, Chairman DSP Blackrock India and the Wildlife Conservation Trust; and Dr. Thomas Kaplan and Mrs Daphne Recanati Kaplan, Panthera’s founders, have contributed $20 million each to the collective fund.
Kaplan said Shaikh Mohammad’s support was a game changer, opening a path to create what has become an unprecedented alliance of philanthropists from Arabia, China, India and America, now united in a common cause.
Shaikh Mohammad is building upon the legacy of the founder of the UAE, his father, Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who was a passionate advocate for wildlife conservation many decades before the cause became mainstream, he said.
The collective fund supports Panthera’s plan to help conserve all 38 species of wild cats, with a core focus on tigers, lions, jaguars, snow leopards, cheetahs, clouded leopards, cougars and leopards.
Programmes of the conservation fund:-
• Protecting and stabilizing more than half of the world’s most important Asian tiger and African lion populations.
• Securing the largest carnivore corridor in the world for jaguars across 18 countries in Latin America.
• Creating community-based conservation projects in nearly all countries with snow leopard populations.
• Reducing killing and poaching in more than half of cheetah and leopard range countries.
• Designing and implementing a range-wide conservation strategy for cougars, inclusive of creating corridors and recovery landscapes across North America.