Guest blog by Susan Eisenstein
I have a children's bilingual English-Hebrew book called Lon-Lon's Big Night Out by Miri Leshem-Pelly. Every time I read this book, I fall in love again with its hero---Lon-Lon the Israeli Sand Fox (and his family, of course) who live in the Negev. Lon-Lon has encounters with several other wild animals living in the Negev in Israel. This book started my love for the wild animals of Israel. Yes, children's books can still inspire us!
Israel is home to a wide variety of unusual wild animals and also has some of the cutest and most amazing animals.
Here are some of my picks:
The Sand Fox
While you will probably fall in love with the Sand Fox's large ears, a long bushy tail, and general fox-like cuteness, the Sand Fox is a completely wild animal. In the 1980s, the Sand Fox was forced out of sandy areas in the Arava by the Red Fox and the wolf. Now, the remaining population lives in arid wadis, away from settlements and army camps in the eastern Makhtesh Ramon and the large wadis.
The Jerboa is another animal that could captivate you with its cuteness and some would say weird appearance. The Jerboa has ears that remind you of a mouse, long silky fur, long kangaroo-like feet. and a long tufted tail. Their front feet are very small, not used for movement. They are hopping desert rodents that are found throughout Arabia, Northern Africa, and Asia.
They live in the desert and can run up to 15 mph and leap almost 10 feet at a time. They are nocturnal and sleep in burrows during the daytime. The Jerboa's incredible sense of sight, smell, and hearing help it to be super aware of everything in its environment. The Lesser Egyptian Jerboa's natural habitat in Israel is being reduced due to construction and cats that are hunting them on the edges of towns and cities. They are now a protected species. The greater Egyptian Jerboa is found in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and possibly is extinct in the Negev of Israel.
The Hyrax also called Rock Hyrax or Rock Badgers, are commonly found around Ein Gedi and throughout the Judean Desert. As their name implies, they live among rocks. Even though the Hyrax looks somewhat like a guinea pig, it is not a rodent. Hyrax is found in Africa and the Middle East. Living in colonies of up to 80 individuals, they grow up to two feet in length and about 10 pounds in weight. If you like sun-bathing and chilling, then the Rock Hyrax just might be a best friend! They spend a lot of time in this activity and rest for about 95 percent of the time. They have three-chambered stomachs, tusks, and a special claw for grooming. The Hyrax is related to elephants and manatees. It is interesting to note that they are not kosher.
To find out more about the amazing animals of Israel, a great source is The Jerusalem Zoo. This zoo has the Fallow Deer, which today lives in the wild only in Israel and the Palestinian Gazelle, which also probably lives only in Israel, and the short-jaw Tristramella which is a threatened freshwater fish that lives only in the Sea of Galilee, Dor's Loach, a critically endangered freshwater fish that lives only in a tiny area in Israel and is kept off-display. The Jerusalem Zoo also has the Griffin Vulture, a project that they are very much involved with and proud of. This species is widespread in Asia and in Europe and is not globally threatened. And, of course, there are many more species to be seen at the Jerusalem Zoo.
For more information go to the Jerusalem Zoo's website or contact: Rachael Risby Raz, International Relations Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org