Donors pledge $80m to protect wild cats

2014-06-01 21:16
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Dubai - The crown prince of the oil-rich Mideast emirate of Abu Dhabi and other international donors committed a combined $80m on Sunday to fund the conservation of tigers and other wild cats whose survival is under threat.

The donors announced the 10-year funding effort following a private signing ceremony in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, in partnership with New York-based cat conservation organisation Panthera.

The supporters include Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is next in line to rule Abu Dhabi. Panthera's founder and chairperson, mining investor Thomas Kaplan, described the crown prince in an interview as "a catalyst" for accelerating the wider funding effort that he hopes will attract more donors from around the world.

Other backers are Jho Low, CEO of Hong Kong-based investment firm Jynwel Capital, businessman Hemendra Kothari, who chairs DSP Blackrock India and India's Wildlife Conservation Trust, and Kaplan and his wife Daphne Recanati Kaplan.

"This is a truly multinational advance. And we hope it serves to be a template for wildlife conservation," Kaplan said in an interview. "We hope it's just the beginning."

Each person or family is committing $20m over a decade.

The funds will go toward Panthera's aim of helping to conserve 38 species of wild cats through projects that include anti-poaching efforts and occasional land purchases to create safe corridors for wild cats. Some will be allocated for existing programmes, while others will contribute to new initiatives.

"For conservation to be effective, it's got to scale up," Panthera CEO and cat expert Alan Rabinowitz said. "That takes funding."

The crown prince's contribution to the funding effort will be managed through a conservation fund he set up in 2009 that awards grants primarily to small conservation projects in the developing world. Unlike some rich Emiratis and other Gulf Arabs, he does not keep captive big cats of his own, said the fund's director general, Frederic Launay.

Panthera was created in 2006 to focus on conserving wild cats, in particular tigers, lions, jaguars, snow leopards, cheetahs, cougars and leopards.

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