Posts on wildlife and feral animals

מקבץ פוסטים שפורסמו במקור ב-Animal Rights in Israel (דף פייסבוק, כיום For Anonymous Animals, בבעלות עמותת אנונימוס).


Holiday travelers may put wildlife at risk. What can you do about it?

Sukkot is a long vacation time in Israel, and travelers flood the country, leaving mountains of trash behind. Mammals such as cats and hedgehogs are at risk of getting stuck in cans, jars and plastic remains, and small mammals as well as large birds tend to get stuck and strangled in six-pack plastic rings. Yet marine animals suffer the most, as garbage drifts and accumulates in their habitat, sometimes thousands of kilometers away of the original dumping place.

Sukkot is therefore a perfect time to reconsider and reduce plastic consumption, and to remove dangerous waste that you find while at the beach or hiking. Some further useful tips:

* Use less plastic bags and less disposable plastic in general.
* Cut six-pack rings before disposing.
* Don't throw away cans and jars without closing or crushing them first. It is also better to clean them before disposal.
* Remove plastic bags and similar trash found in nature reserves, at the beach, etc.
* Remove any neglected fishing equipment such as nets, strings and hooks.
* Don't release balloons into the air.

Have a good and safe Holiday!


Execution of "foreign" camels

Let the Animals Live (an Israeli animal welfare group) announced yesterday that "a group of camels have crossed the border from Jordan into Israel. The Ministry of Agriculture refuses to take responsibility, Jordan doesn't want them back and the only solution they have managed to come up with is to shoot them!" The group suggests writing to the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Yair Shamir, and ask him to step in and save the camels.

Killing is the Ministry's habitual reaction to camels crossing the border into Israel. In addition to camels from Jordan, the Israel-Egypt long border allows the free crossing of camels. Often, such camels are tied up and kept in very poor conditions before being shot. The formal reason for the killing is fear of disease, allegedly common among African camels. Another reason is attempting to cause financial damage to smugglers who exploit the camels as vehicles.

Even if disease and smuggling are real problems, there is no reason why the camels should pay the price. Camels from neighboring countries could be quarantined and examined for disease. Some of the them may be adopted, as suggestion has been made in a similar case. In other cases, release of healthy camels at the area where they entered the country is certainly a more reasonable solution than killing them.


Lining of reservoirs: an "environmental friendly" disaster for birds

Israel is a rather dry country, and most of its rare natural ponds have been turned into artificial reservoirs. During the 2000s, the bottom of reservoirs all over the country have been covered with plastic sheets (or other synthetic materials) to prevent water loss and leakage of waste into the ground water resources.

This initiative is promoted by the Ministry of Environmental Protection. No doubt the intentions are good, but a plastic-covered reservoir is a sterile place. A new (23 October) Yedi'ot Aharonot article stresses that once a reservoir is sealed, no vegetation grows in it anymore, and the birds are forced to leave. Ducks, passerines and other birds lose their habitat, which has already been damaged by human actions. An ecologist with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority explains another problem: animals that try to drink the water tend to slip and some of them drown.

Some birds are rapidly disappearing. Birdwatcher Ezra Hadad followed two little grebe populations in the Judean Foothills, and saw that sealing the pond caused the loss of all 50-70 grebes that used to live there. Other victims of the plastic sheets include ferruginous ducks, small ducks that used to breed by the hundreds in the Hula Valley until the mid 20th century. Draining natural water ponds reduced the population drastically, until they became rare breeders anywhere in the country.

An emergency solution is offered by ecologists: preserving some bank vegetation of the otherwise dead reservoirs, and constructing artificial islands inside them.


Helping cats to survive the storm!

Winter is finally here. In Safed tonight, temperatures dropped below zero (0ºC, or 32ºF), and they are expected to drop further all over the Israeli mountains, with snow and heavy rain. The usually warm climate of Israel allows a big population of cats to flourish outdoors, but these cold storms may prove too much for them without our help. Fortunatelly, helping is easy:

– Take a closed box, and cut a small opening;
– Add isolation layers (e.g., cardboard);
– Cover cardboard boxes with plastic;
– Cover the floor of the box with a thick isolation layer (e.g., old cloths and towels);
– Put the box where it would be protected from the rain and wind, preferably away from most people's eyes;
– Ask your neighbours kindly not to remove the box.

During the current storm in Israel, Facebook is full of pictures of such easy to make cat shelters. It is good to see that people are not forgetting their small neighbours!


A victory for breeding birds at Atlit

The Atlit salt ponds, at the Mediterranean coast south of Haifa, is a unique breeding ground for several sea bird and wader species, including Little Terns (who breed nowhere else in lsrael), Common Terns, Yellow-Legged Gulls and Pied Avocets, as well as the more common Black-Winged Stilts, Spur-Winged Lapwings and others. The sea water evaporation ponds, constructed in the early 1920s for salt production, became a rare breeding habitat whereas hundreds of kilometers of the Mediterranean east coast are strongly affected by human activity.

In the 1990s, Israeli tycoons and State officials signed a deal to destroy the Atlit (as well as Eilat) salt ponds in favor of a more profitable building plan. In 2003, several NGO's led by the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel appealed the Supreme Court against the deal. After years of mere delays, the legal debate over the deal was renewed due to suspicions of corruption. Last week, 10 years after the original appeal, the Ministry of Finance finally signed a decision that cancels the destructive deal.

Now, as the immediate danger to the future of Atlit's birds is gone, there are other dangers to address. These dangers have to do with the fact that once the natural habitats (such as small islands) became unfit for breeding due to human interruption, this remaining habitat is yet unstable, and it is very much exposed to predators. One of the major dangers to the birds — which all nest on the ground — is photographers. That is why we do not present here a picture of cute chicks from Atlit, but rather a picture of adult Little Terns, which could have been taken anywhere.