Mammals in Palestine and the Book "Mammalia Arabica"
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The Mammals of Palestine

Today, the largest Palestinian land animals are mountain gazelles, wild boar, foxes, jungle cats, Nubian ibex and the rarely seen leopards, hyenas, jackals and wolves. In all, there are 116 different species of land animals in Palestine, compared with 140 in the whole of Europe, which is 300 times larger. This is an impressive figure for a small country, but the numbers of animals within each species is shrinking.
Since the 1960s, the Nature Reserves Authority has been reintroducing populations of animals which were native to the area in biblical times, under a program known as Hai-Bar. Breeding centers for Mediterranean animals (in the Carmel) and desert animals (at Yotvata in the Araba) have been set up, and five species selected for the first stage: ostriches, roe deer, Asiatic wild asses, Persian fallow deer and white oryx. All except the roe deer are globally endangered. The founder animals for each species came from both zoos and the wild, around the world. Successful reintroductions into the wild have already been implemented for the Asiatic wild ass (starting in 1982), the fallow deer (since 1996) and, most recently, the white oryx (1997).

Mammalia Palaestina: The Mammals of Palestine.

By: Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher Khalaf-von Jaffa.

The Book: Mammalia Arabica. A Zoological Journey in Palestine, Arabia and Europe between 1980 - 2006. / Mammalia Arabica. Eine Zoologische Reise in Palaestina, Arabien und Europa zwischen 1980 - 2006.

By: Norman Ali Khalaf-von Jaffa

ISBN 3-00-017294-7

The Foxes of Palestine
Several Foxes occur in Palestine,each of which represents one zoogeographical region.In the southern and eastern deserts and steppes the slender,dull reddish-grey Egyptian Fox (Vulpes niloticus) is frequently found.Its found to the south of the Arabah.This form still prevails in the southern Philistine plain and in the mountains of south Judea.The prevailing form of the Mediterranean sections from Ramleh and Jerusalem up to the Lebanon is the reddish-grey Palestine Fox (Vulpes palaestina). The Tawny Fox (Vulpes flavescens) is an Irano-Turanian intruder in Galilee.It is the largest of the three forms.It is of a bright,light-yellowish colour,has black ears and a splendid brush.The colour and quality of its fur depends greatly upon the season. It lives on fruits,insects,birds and mice. The Rueppel's Sand Fox (Vulpes rueppeli) occurs in the Naqab Desert.
The Fennec Fox (Desert Fox) (Lat. Fennecus zerda) does occur in the extreme southern deserts of Palestine and Sinai. It is the smallest and scarcest desert fox in Arabia. It is identifiable by its very large, uniformly coloured ears, pale coat with black tail tip. It dwells in sandy deserts and in spite of its specialised habits has been successfully kept in captivity. It utters a bark like that of a small domestic dog.
One of the endangered animals in Palestine is the cliff or Afghan fox (Vulpes cana) which is a small and shy fox which lives in steep bouldered areas in the desert. This fox was first discovered in Palestine in 1982 at Ein Geddi. Its dispersion originates from Palestine and ranges east to Afghanistan and south to Oman. It is a nocturnal animal which lives mostly off insects and fruits which it finds in the deep canyons and valleys. Near sunrise it returns to its lair, where it spends the warm daylight hours.
Around Ein Geddi, cliff foxes can be sighted by the villages lightposts light and on cliffs in the twilight hours. Perservation of the Ha'atakim cliff along the Araba, of the Judean desert, and of the desert area should promise the perpetuation of this species.
The Gazelles of Palestine
Gazelles are still common in Palestine.They are the symbol of speed and beauty in the Desert.They are praised by the Arab poets and are always a delight to behold.A common species is the Red Gazelle or Dorcas Gazelle (Gazella dorcas).It is seen in the mountains and plains, where it intrudes from the southern and eastern deserts.It is also found near Jerusalem.Generally it lives in groups of 3-7 animals.In the Naqab Desert, these groups are larger,sometimes consisting of 20 animals and more.The birth of one young one per litter takes place from the end of February to mid-March,after a gestation period of from 5-6 months' duration.
The black-nosed Grey Gazelle or Arabic Gazelle (Gazella arabica) is less common in the mountains, but more common in the coast-plain and is abundant in the deserts. The gazelles too have their main period of birth in the spring. In years of extreme drought they do not reproduce at all.

The Wild Cats of Palestine

The Libyan Cat (Felis ocreata) is prpbably the ancestor of the Domestic Cat.It is scarce,but it is still present in Palestine and is more common in jordan and in the Naqab Desert.It greatly resembles many forms of the Domestic Cat in size (50 cm body + 25 cm tail) and design. It is pale yellow to pale grey above, somewhat reddish at the back of the head, brighter at the flanks and whitish below. The Libyan Cat is easily tamed. It lives mainly on rodents and birds.
The short tailed Palestine Jungle Cat (Catolynx chrysomelanotis) looks very much like an ordinary cat and because of this its numbers may often be underestimated.It lives in the jungles and reed-beds of the Jordan.
The sand-coloured Caracal Lynx (Caracal schmitzi) occurs in the Naqab and in the Dead Sea Depression. It is easily recognized by its long ear-tufts. The Spotted Lynx (Lynx pardina) is probably more numerous in the wooded districts of jordan and Galilee than is generally believed. It is beautifully coloured,being red-brown,with black spots and stripes.
The Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) was living before in the Naqab,in jordan and in the Palestinian mountains.Many skins were sold by Bedouins from Beersheba.It is a splendid runner,like the greyhound.It is easily distinguished from the Leopard by its much longer limbs and tail and in addition,it is dappled with black spots instead of rings.
The Leopard (Panthera pardus tulliana) lives in the North of Palestine.The smaller Nimer subspecies (Panthera pardus nimr) lives in the Desert.The Sinai Leopard (Panthera pardus jarvisi) lives in the Judean Desert.Leopards have penetrated much of the southern half of Palestine,from the En Gedi region near the Dead Sea,all the way down to the Elat Mountains.They are also seen on the Egyptian Sinai border in the Nahal Paran region.

The Mustelids of Palestine

The Marten (Martes foina) is still present in the hills and mountains. In the past its skin was occasionally sold on the streets of Jerusalem.
The smaller Iltis (Putorius putorius) is only a very rare inhabitant of the extreme north, whence it has been reported from Metullah.
The Marbled Polecat (Vormela peregusna)is rather common.It is most abundant in the hills and moumtains,although it is also found in the coast-plain in considerable numbers. It is 50 cm long (34 + 16 cm). Its brown fur is marbled with large yellow-brown spots, and is whitish at the throat and black below. The fairly long-haired tail shows a mixture of brown,yellow and black.The Polecat is injurious because it attacks poultry,but it is useful as an enemy of rats and mice.
The Otter (Lutra lutra) is the largest Palestinian fresh water mammal.It is totally dependent on steadily flowing streams of fresh water.An adult otter weighs about nine kilograms.Its body is about 70 cm long, and the long tail adds another 45 cm.
In the nineteenth century,otters flourished in the perennial streams of the coastal plain : Al-Zarqa (Al-Timsah) River,Iskandarunah River,and the Al-Auja River,north of Jaffa. The Jordan River and the streams flowing into the Sea of Tiberias and further south towards the Dead Sea were additional otter habitats.
Since the 1970s, there have been extremely few reports of otters in the coastal rivers south of Akko. Most streams which still exist on the coastal plain are too polluted nowadays to support the food chain on which the otter depends;but they still live along the upper part of the Jordan River.
The Common Badger (Meles meles) is rather abundant in the hilly and woody parts of the country.In the coastal plain it is less numerous and seems to be decreasing there. The tropical Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis) is easily differentiated from the common Badger by its black fur, with the white back. The Honey Badger seems to inhabit the Naqab and the Lower Jordan Valley up to Jerusalem.

The Mustelids of Palestine:

Hedgehogs are reather numerous all over Palestine.The Long-eared hedgehog (Erinaceus auritus) is very abundant in the Naqab and to the north of the coastal plain up to Tulkarem. The long ears and short spines are very characteristic of this species. The common hedgehog of the hills and mountains is the Palestine Hedgehog (Erinaceus sacer).
Hedgehogs live mainly on insects and amphibians,but they do not reject suitable vegetable food, when these are not obtainable. In summer-evenings they may be found in vine-yards feeding on grapes. From autumn to spring they are active in the morning and in the evening, but in the summer their activity is restricted to the night-time. When fighting among themselves at night they make a terrible noise- a very loud, exasperating, snarling growl, but usually when alarmed (or angry?) they utter a low growl. Their retreats are holes between stones or in the soil. The Bedouins roast them and eat them.
The Hare of the Mediterranean sections is the Syrian Hare (Lepus syriacus) which is related to the European Hare. It is only slightly smaller than the Egyptian Hare (Lepus aegyptius), which is the common Hare of the Naqab and the Jordan Valley.
The Cetaceans of Palestine
18 cetacean species are currently listed from the Mediterranean. The ranges of six: Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba), Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus), common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis) and Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris), apparently extend to the Eastern Coast. Of these, the first is by far the most common, associating with commercial trawlers and accounting for reported net entanglements. The rare beachings of sperm (Physeter macrocephalus) and fin (Balaenoptera physalus) must be the result of accidental straying or of drifting of floating carcasses.
The current data, cannot confirm reports showing sperm whale, killer whale (Orcinus orca), Blainville's beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris) and false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens), to occur throughout the Mediterranean, although sperm, killer and Blainville's beaked whales have been encountered in Greek waters.
The Jackal (Canis lupaster) is the "small Wolf" which has repeatedly been recorded from Palestine. It occurs in the lower Jordan Valley up to Jerusalem and in the Naqab. This pale brown animal is very silent compared with the Lesser Jackal and lives singly.

The beautiful Nubian Ibex (Capra nubiana) lives on rocky mountains around the Dead Sea,in the Naqab and in Sinai. There is no constant difference between these animals and those from Upper Egypt and Nubia. Occasionally they may be found even near Jerusalem. They live usually in small troops led by an old male, and march slowly in single file one behind the other. They utter a whistling snort when alarmed and run away, but not very rapidly.

The Donkeys of the Holy Land

By: Minerva Wright
14 June 2002

Forced to live in tents and ghetto slums, the Palestinian people, including more than 6 million homeless refugees, live a constant, daily struggle to survive and resist losing human dignity as they endure Israel's grueling apartheid rule. According to Amnesty International, Palestinian homes are being demolished within a few minutes or no warning at all by Israeli Defense Forces, causing material loss and trauma to thousands of men, women, and children.

But, oh, to be an Israeli donkey!

New home for Israel's rescued donkeys:
According to a report earlier this year from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), Israel relocated its home for the country's neglected and abused donkeys to a spacious new five-acre site at the foot of Israel's Gilboa mountains. The sanctuary, Safe Haven For Donkeys in the Holy Land, had originally been located on a kibbutz near Ramla until conditions became overcrowded.
WSPA campaigns director, Jonathan Pearce, commended the home's founder, Lucy Fensom, for her dedication to improving the lives of Israel's suffering donkeys. The WSPA 2001 newsletter states that all of the donkeys at the sanctuary have "terrible histories of suffering and distress, but with Lucy's help they are assured of living out their lives in peace."

If only the shell-shocked children of Palestine -- with eternal nightmares from watching mothers murdered senselessly in cold-blood, from hearing the ominous roar of bulldozers razing homes still filled with family pets and grandfathers -- could be so fortunate. If only the generation of Palestine not yet born could be assured of living their lives in peace.

No such haven for Palestine's donkeys:
Documented reports over the last seven years have shown that Palestinian animals have not fared as well as their Israeli counterparts. Animals in Palestine have increasingly become the victims of Israeli aggression.
The New York Times in April 14, 1995 reported that Israeli patrols placed one Arab town under curfew and then hunted down and killed 90 dogs that Palestinians claim barked to alert them of the whereabouts of the Israeli army controls. Israel's Environmental Minister called the shootings "unacceptable" and Hebron's Palestinian health official pointed out that many of the dogs were pets and working shepherd dogs.
Neither are Palestine's animals immune to violence from Israeli settlers. Using syringes filled with poison, Israeli settlers living in the colony of Itimar, which was built on the Israeli government's confiscated indigenous villagers' land, systematically poisoned and slaughtered a pasture full of Palestinian sheep on August 2001 in the Valley Yanun located 3.5 km north west of Aqraba village. The village has a population of 10,000 inhabitants who mostly work in agriculture, especially olive cultivation and animal breeding. Since the colony's establishment, Palestinian shepherds and farmers have been the victims for years of the Israeli settlers' attacks using either trained dogs or weapons to prevent them from tending their land and livestock.
In an August 14, 2001 Capital Times, Madison, Wisconsin article calling national attention to "Palestine's lively peace movement that has been working at a grass-roots level in every Palestinian community throughout the occupied territories," reporter Kathryn Kingsbury warned that by our silence, we condone Israel's own atrocities against the Palestinians.
Only two weeks before her visit to a desert community of about 75 cave-dwelling shepherds near the West Bank town of Yatta, the Israeli Defense Forces had bulldozed every one of the community's centuries-old caves, burying clothing, cars and even live sheep under tons of rock. When the Red Cross supplied emergency tents to the families, the Israelis returned with their heavy machinery and buried those as well. The Israeli government justified the cave demolitions by saying that they were built without the required construction permits.

"Bambi" of Palestine:
Last April, two Palestinian children rode their pet horses when, without warning, Israeli soldiers began shooting at them from a military base on a nearby hill. The two boys, along with other children playing in the area, ran for cover and escaped but both of their horses were killed by Israeli fire.
One of the horses was pregnant and after the motherless "Bambi" of Palestine was born, witnesses reported that the young colt, too young to understand what murder is, was still trying to nurse from his mother's bloodied corpse. The market value of these horses was approximately 5,000 U.S. dollars, a substantial sum for a Palestinian farmer.
A European Union funded report prepared by The Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ) and the Arab Studies Society Land Research Center (LRC) - Jerusalem in May 2001 found that Palestinian farmers have lost livestock to Israeli attacks in increased proportions since the Aqsa intifada, the latest civil rights movement to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This has resulted in great financial losses, loss of transportation, and loss of jobs because animals are large investments to Palestinians because they gain cumulative value over the years as they produce offspring.
"Such attacks on animals", as stated in the report, "are not motivated by military needs at all but are meant to punish the Palestinian people, destroy their livelihoods, and strike fear in every Palestinian household".
During the May 15, 2001 demonstration march commemorating the Al Nakba ("great Palestinian Catastrophe"), Palestinian Bambi, the orphan horse, participated alongside the children -- a symbol of hope and survival against the odds for the occupied people and animals of Palestine who aren't quite as fortunate as newly settled Israeli donkeys, who, safely nestled in their new haven, have been assured of living out the rest of their lives in peace.


Gazelle - The Palestinian Biological Bulletin