Article - Wild Animals in Israel
Wild Animals in Israel
In modern times, the rate of extinction of wild animals in Israel and around the world is increasing and is 50-100 times more than the natural rate of extinction. Intensive development of open land, pollution and illegal hunting, are some of the causes of the disappearance of many animals.
Israel is blessed with one of the richest variety of wild animals in the world. There are about 400 vertebrates including 100 species of mammals, 200 species of birds and 95 reptile species. There are also approximately 15,000-30,000 insect species. The last century saw the extinction in Israel of 22 species of vertebrate and 4 sub-species. At least 6 insect species and 15 mollusk species has also become extinct. Many species have disappeared without us knowing anything about them.
This data was published in the report “Born for Nature”, on the condition of wild animals in Israel, 1999.
The Lesser Kestrel
The Lesser Kestrel is a beautiful small diurnal bird of prey, that breed in Israel and is a globally endangered species. In the spring it returns to Africa in order to breed a new generation of fledglings. The Lesser Kestrels nest under the tiles of old roofs and search for food in open surroundings near the birds’ colonies. They feed on different types of insects and small reptiles. Due to the development of open spaces and renovations of rooftops, the Lesser Kestrel is disappearing from the landscape of Israel and neighboring countries. In recent years, efforts have been made to save the Lesser Kestrel nests in Alona in South Carmel and in Jerusalem. Many volunteers and school children have taken part in the task of setting up nesting boxes. These efforts, as well as the preservation of the feeding areas of the Kestrel, might save the colonies that still exist.
Kuhl’s Pipistrelle (Bat)
The Kuhl’s Pipistrelle is the most common of the small bats in Israel. The small bat lives in attics and in cracks in large trees, the bat is beneficial in many ways: their food, moth and flying insects is detriment to agriculture. The bat catches its prey by high pitch sounds that humans cannot hear. The small bat in Israel suffers from the disinfecting of the caves where the bats roost, which is intended for fruit bats. In recent years the use of pesticides in caves has been forbidden, but there is still a threat to the bats due to the widespread use of pesticides in agriculture and people entering the caves in winter and disturbing their hibernation.
The Greek Tortoise
Until recently, the Greek Tortoise was the most common tortoise in Israel. The tortoise hibernates in the winter for a number of months. They wake at the end of winter and begin courting. The female lays her eggs in a hole in the ground. In recent years the conditions of the tortoises in Israel have deteriorated as a result of increased collection by reptile collectors and common crows and cats that prey on the tortoises’ offspring during the summer.
The Roe Deer
The Roe Deer is a small and beautiful deer that, in the past, could be found in the woodlands of Mediterranean countries and in Israel.
This deer was one of two deer that lived in the woods in the Galilee and the Carmel (the Roe Deer and the Persian Fallow Deer). They feed on woodland leaves and vegetation and were part of the ecological system that existed in Israeli woods. The grazing of the deer enabled the opening up of the woods and prevented the vegetation from becoming entangled and too thick.
Over-hunting and the cutting down of the woods caused the decline and elimination of the Roe Deer population. The entry of weapons in Israel at the end of the 19th Century meant that the Roe Deer was on the verge of becoming extinct and at the beginning of the 20th Century that last of its kind in Israel was hunted and caught.
During the last twenty years, attempts have been mad to create a breeding core at “Hai-Bar”, in Carmel. In 1998 a number of Roe Deer were reintroduced to Ramat HaNadiv Park, South Carmel, in order to bring back one of the most beautiful deer to the Israeli landscape.
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI)