Israel is home to an amazing array of wildlife, from the coral reef in Eilat to the plants and animals of the desert and the Galilee. Unfortunately, like everywhere else in the world, there are a number of species of plants and animals that are on the endangered list and some are horrifically close to extinction.
At present there are 57 species of mammals that are listed as endangered in Israel. Fortunately, there is a large amount of conservation work being done to try and save these animals and there have been some great successes over the years.
One of the most at risk animals in Israel is the leopard and it is highly unlikely that you will ever spot one. The remaining animals live in the Judean Desert and in the Negev Highlands. It is thought that there are less than 20 animals left in the country but this number is extremely hard to verify.
Another animal that is extremely at risk in Israel is the Sand Cat. The sand cat is a desert animal and until 2016 it was considered a threatened special across the world. Luckily, preservation efforts have been successful and it is now listed as ‘Least Concern’ meaning that there is a stable population. Unfortunately, the preservation efforts seem to have been too late in Israel. There have been no recorded observations of the sand cats since the mid-1990s. However, one theory is that the Israel-Jordan peace treaty left most of the sandy areas in the northern and southern Arava in Jordanian territory and this is where most of the cats lived. As a result, there is a chance that there is a stable population just across the border.
Sticking with cats, but a less endangered type this time, is the Jungle Cat. The jungle cat tends to live in the Mediterranean region on the coastal plain and in valleys such as the Hula Valley. In the nineteenth-century this was a very common animal in Israel but by the mid-twentieth-century the population had shrunk considerably. However, this trend seems to have been reversed, the population appears to have been stable for the last few decades and there is thought to be about 600 jungle cats living happily in Israel.
On another positive note, Israel’s coral reef is doing well. It is well known that coral reefs across the planet are under threat and there have been some real concerns about the beautiful coral in Eilat. However, recent studies suggest that Israel’s only coral reel is doing better than expected. A study in 2017 found that Israel’s coral reef is almost unique in its ability to cope with climate change. Great care is taken to preserve the coral in Eilat and as things stand, it should be there for people to enjoy for generations to come.
As mentioned there are 57 species of mammals endangered in Israel, and there are many more other types of endangered animals and plants. During your gap year you will see a lot of the country’s wildlife, and you may even get the chance to help with preservation efforts.