The crown prince of the oil-rich Middle Eastern emirate of Abu Dhabi and other international donors have committed a combined US$80 million to fund the conservation of tigers and other wild cats whose survival is under threat.
The donors on Sunday announced the 10-year funding effort, a partnership with New York-based cat conservation organisation Panthera, following a private signing ceremony in the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi.
Panthera's founder and chairman, mining investor Thomas Kaplan, described crown prince Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan as "a catalyst" for accelerating the wider funding effort that he hoped would attract more donors from around the world.
Other backers are Malaysian 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 Kaplan.
"This is a truly multinational advance. And we hope it serves to be a template for wildlife conservation," Kaplan said. "We hope it's just the beginning."
Each person or family is committing US$20 million over a decade. The funds will go towards Panthera's aim of helping to conserve 38 species of wild cats through projects such as anti-poaching efforts and occasional land purchases to create safe corridors for the animals.
Some money will be allocated for existing programmes, while the remainder will contribute to new initiatives.
"For conservation to be effective, it's got to scale up," Panthera CEO and big-cat expert Dr 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 Gulf Arabs, Mohammed did 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.