gap year in israel

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When you hear the word ‘desert’ you probably think of endless sand and rocks rather than animals. However, Israel’s deserts are home to a wide range of wildlife that has adapted to survive in the often-harsh conditions. Here are just a few of the many animals you may spot in Israel’s deserts.

In the 1970s the Arabian Oryx went extinct in the wild. However, thanks to hard work from zoos and wildlife conservationists it was reintroduced back in to the wild in the 1980s. The antelope is no longer listed as endangered but it is still considered vulnerable. You can find the Arabian Oryx in Israel’s deserts and it is easy to identify thanks to its long elegant horns.

If you have been using the internet in the past few years it is easy to think that much of the world has become obsessed by cats. Israel is home to a special member of the feline family called the Sand Dune Cat. The animals look similar to a domesticated cat. They have sand coloured fur and they may also have dark stripes or spots. The cats tend to be most active at night so if you are hoping to see one you better be prepared for a night out in the desert.

Staying in the cat family is the Caracal. The animal, also known as the Desert Lynx, is significantly larger than the Sand Dune Cat. While hunting of the animal is forbidden, they are not considered endangered. They tend to be nocturnal animals and like to avoid the heat. However, in the cooler months they can also be seen during the day.

An animal that you may want to keep an eye out for, but not get too close to, is the Marbled Polecat. They are easy to spot thanks to the colourful patterns in their fur. They normally have a black and white head and neck and then a marbled yellow and brown back and tail. While they may look cute, when they feel threatened they emit a strong-smelling secretion (like a skunk) and if you are unfortunate enough to experience it, you may think twice before approaching another one.

In the rocky Judean Desert you may be lucky enough to spot an Arabian Leopard. This is the smallest of leopards and it has been listed as critically endangered since 2006 when it was confirmed that fewer than two-hundred were left on the planet. There are conservation efforts taking place but unfortunately, for the time being it is unlikely that you will spot one when visiting the Dead Sea.

A far more common sight is the Nubian Ibex. They can be found near springs in both the Negev and Judean deserts and if you see them jumping from rock to rock you are sure to be impressed. Unfortunately, there are also concerns about the ibexes’ future but for now they can still be seen when taking a trip through the desert.

These are just a few of the many animals to be found across Israel and hopefully during your gap year you will have plenty of opportunity to see many of these creatures from up close (even if it is just at the zoo).