By: Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa
Progress in cultivation always leads to the extinction of many of the larger animals. Other animals, mainly domestic ones, take their place and the actual number of animals, (regarded as feeding units) is considerably increased. There is no doubt, however, that Palestine has lost greatly by this change. It is no accident that mainly large carnivora and large game animals are the ones primarily affected. Man was forced to protect his property against the large carnivora, and large game-animals constituted an important addition to his food. The deforestation, which has been taking place since historical times, also made life more difficult for these animals. However, Palestine is not the only country in which this process of elimination of the larger animals has taken place. Everywhere, in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt the same process is at work. Some natural sanctuaries were created in the last years in Palestine and other countries to save the wild animals. But it was too late for many species.
Over a million years ago elephants, rhinoceros, giraffes, water buffaloes and other animals which are now extinct in Palestine roamed the Judean Hills. In Bethlehem remains of some of these animals, thought to be 1.4 - 1.8 million years old, were found cut apart. These finds are the earliest signs of human existence near Jerusalem.
In the modern age, the rate of extinction of the wildlife in Palestine and in the world abound is steadily increasing and is 50 - 100 times greater than the natural extinction rate. Intensive development of open fields, pollution and poaching are only part of the cause of the disappearance of many animals.
Palestine has been blessed with a variety of wildlife, which is one of the most diverse worldwide. It is estimated that in Palestine live and reproduce about 2,590 different species of vertebrates, including more than 100 mammals, 200 birds, and 95 reptiles. In addition, there are about 15,000 -30,000 species of insects.
22 species and 4 sub-species of vertebrates have been extinct in Palestine since the turn of the previous century. To these join approximately 6 species of insects and 15 species of mollusks. Many species have disappeared without us ever knowing of their existence.
In the last decades some wild animal species disappeared from Palestine like: the Naqab lappet-faced vulture (Torgos tracheliotus negevensis), the brown fish owl (Ketupa zeylonensis) and the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus).
Several other species and subspecies also face extinction in this country, as their numbers decline and suitable habitats shrink. Among these are griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), the Anatolian leopards of northern Palestine (Panthera pardus tulliana), common otter (Lutra lutra), Wadi Araba gazelle (Gazella gazelle acaciae), Nile soft-shelled turtle (Trionyx triunguis), striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) and the Persian honey badger (Mellivora capensis wilsoni).
Khalaf-von Jaffa, Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam (2001). Extinct and Endangered Animals in Palestine & Threatened Mammals in Palestine. Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin Website. www.gazelle.8m.net/photo3.html
Khalaf-von Jaffa, Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam (2009). Extinct and Endangered Animals in Palestine. Flora and Fauna in Palestine Website. www.flora-fauna-palestine.webs.com/extinctendangeredfauna.htm