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FAUNA. The sources of evidence are surveyed in three sections. (1) Ancient material provided by explorers, archeologists, etc. and textual evidence, including philological. (2) Study of the fauna and flora of these areas today, considered in the light of history in order to assess potential, allows any inferences to be drawn. This is treated regionally. (3) The area generally has been radically affected by man’s activities which in some cases have left no sign of the original vegetation. These are discussed in some detail historically, after considering, and rejecting, the theory that the widespread deterioration of flora might be due primarily to climatic worsening since Biblical times. Many species are mentioned but their fuller description is found in individual articles.


Sources of information about earlier fauna


Any description of the fauna of Pal. in the Biblical period must be based clearly on reconstruction. This section considers the sources of literary and other recorded information on which this is based.

Ancient material.

Data provided by the paleontologist largely refers to older faunas that prob. lived in climatic conditions so different that they are of only academic interest. Archeological material is becoming much more relevant now that animal remains are being examined more critically by more modern methods. In particular the work of the late F. E. Zeuner is invaluable for its treatment of bones found in human contexts, esp. because he sought to differentiate wild animals from the modified forms domesticated from them. It is fortunate that much of his work concerns Pal. and nearby lands. By its nature this material is limited largely to three groups: (1) Domestic animals. (2) Wild animals, esp. game, whose meat was eaten and whose bones, horns and antlers were used for making weapons and tools. (3) Other animals connected with superstition or religion. The great volume of dated and localized pictorial and written material resulting from excavations is an equally useful source of data. Prehistoric cave drawings are of less importance here than elsewhere.

Biblical evidence.

The Bible itself provides not only the names of numerous animals, many from roots of known meaning, but also considerable information about them, whether stated explicitly or to be deduced from the context. It is unrealistic, however, to search the Scriptures for anything in the nature of a “check-list” of animals once found in Pal. By and large the animals are present as an integral part of the life of ordinary people. Thus the frequency with which an animal is mentioned, with its range of names, is a good indication of its importance, whether economic or ceremonial; e.g. sheep, with c. 400 occurrences, and cattle, with over 450, in OT and NT, far outnumber any other species, wild or domesticated. Biblical animals are largely confined to: (1) Domestic stock and clean wild animals used for food. (2) Animals that were a danger or nuisance to human life, stock, crops or other possessions, ranging from lions to clothes moths. (3) Familiar animals seen along roadsides, around houses, etc. including swallow, raven and sparrow. (4) A special class of unclean animals forbidden as food. As is explained in more detail where these are discussed individually, this prohibition was not just arbitrary, but was in many cases based on sound hygiene not understood or properly practiced for another 3,000 years.

There is little difficulty in identifying (1) and (2), for many are mentioned often, or occur in meaningful contexts; (3) contains a wide variety of animals, mostly rather small, not all of which can be named with certainty; (4) includes most of the doubtful names, given in what amounts to little more than two bare lists. Even here there are exceptions; Heb. פֶּ֔רֶס tr. vulture (Lev 11:13) is a good example of the help given by philology. Listed among unclean birds it is clearly a bird of prey; the name “bone-breaker” precisely describes the habits of the Black Vulture and Bearded Vulture. (See Ossifrage.) Such ease of naming is exceptional. Some names have no known root meaning and are not known in any modern cognate form; further, they appear only in these lists. It should be noted that it is unsafe to rely on modern Heb., in which some names have been given to entirely different animals. It is believed that all animal names used in KJV, ASV and RSV have individual entries. Animals mentioned mainly in fig. contexts, in poetical, wisdom and prophetic books, are sometimes difficult but in most cases tentative identifications can be made.

Natural regions


Although Pal. as such no longer exists, it is a useful term for the area where much of the Biblical story was set. For a period after World War I it covered present Israel and all land W of the Rift Valley and Jordan; it is in this rough sense that it is used here. The topography is such that the regions into which this area is divided are fairly clearly demarcated; they are primarily geographical and botanical, aspects which are treated in greater detail elsewhere. These factors, in turn, determine the potential fauna, though geographical and faunal regions seldom coincide exactly, and man has had such an overwhelming impact on both flora and fauna that natural boundaries are sometimes completely masked. (The Geography of the Bible by Denis Baly [1957] defines these regions well.) The object of this discussion is to relate what is seen today with the original flora and fauna.



Much of S and E Pal. consists of desert and near desert. Surface varies from deep sand through gravel to more or less bare rock; topography from steep escarpments to almost level plains; and altitude from far below sea level to rather over 2,000 ft. above sea level. Rainfall, mostly from two to eight inches, usually occurs in a few winter storms violent enough to cause local flooding, esp. in the loess areas where the soil surface quickly forms an impervious skin, but a year often passes with no rain at all in one part of the desert or another. There is no closed cover, yet few large areas are entirely without trees or shrubs, which can draw moisture from deep in the soil, while most wadis are lined with specialized woody plants. Some soil is potentially fertile, esp. the loess, and quickly becomes temporarily covered with grass and flowering plants after rain. This is the only fresh green stuff available to the domestic stock around the desert edge, and the Bedouins’ intimate local knowledge allows them to make full use of it. Even in the hills around the Dead Sea the cent. old well-trodden grazing tracks of sheep and goats are plainly visible at all seasons, though perhaps used only for a short period once a year. The desert is subject to great ranges of temperature, both diurnal and annual. In summer the ground surface temperature by day would be lethal to small animals, whose activity is therefore confined to the night; winter nights can be too cold, and animals may then be active in late evening and early morning. Within the desert there are some areas where no animals can live, and the average density of animal life is low everywhere.

Large mammals.

Gazelles and Desert Oryx are the only large wild animals able to survive in such surroundings; they are big and fast enough to travel far in search of food and they stand high enough to keep above the fierce ground heat. The pale coat gives some degree of camouflage and also reduces absorption of sun heat, while with their specialized physiology they seldom need to drink water, getting most of their moisture from their food. They are few in number and are reckoned in many square m. per head. The Nubian Ibex—one of the mountain goats—is at home on some of the desert hills, including those on the W of the Dead Sea around Ein Gedi, where it is now protected. Only camels can serve as beasts of burden in desert conditions. Thorny plants provide food when they are allowed to range freely, but camels need occasional access to water, and if they are used on long, heavily loaded stages they must be well fed.

Small mammals.

These are more numerous and varied. The Egyp. Jerboa, known in World War II as the Desert Rat, lives a similar life to that of the unrelated Kangaroo Rat of the California and Arizona deserts, spending the day in burrows where the lower temperature and higher relative humidity give more moderate conditions, and coming out at night in search of seeds, fruits and succulent roots. Other small rodents—several species of gerbils, jirds and sand rats—also live in dry habitats but are more typical of the desert edge, with rainfall above eight inches.


With their possible prey so scarce, carnivores are even more rare, and the only true cat seems to be the Caracal, or Desert Lynx; a very small pale variety of the leopard (q.v.) lives near, rather than in, the actual desert. The Fennec Fox, with huge ears, is a true desert form, smaller than the ordinary fox but with the same omnivorous habits. The slow-moving Arabian Hedgehog is well known; it feeds mostly on invertebrates and small reptiles.


The Griffon and Black Vultures, and Lammergeier, or Bearded Vulture, are in a special position. Very small numbers serve to scavenge a great area of desert, which they survey while cruising or soaring slowly from several thousand feet. Precise identification is not possible, but large birds of prey high overhead would have been a familiar sight to the Israelites on their desert wanderings. In the migration seasons these included eagles, vultures and buzzards; for the rest of the year mostly vultures. Migrant birds are without doubt the most conspicuous animals of the desert, the large ones usually flying high overhead, the smaller ones traveling in shorter spells and stopping where possible for food and water. Like the Quail, which still flies N in numbers, these migrants are travelers across the desert rather than residents in it. In contrast, the Rock Dove, from which domestic pigeons are descended, nests on desert cliffs, flying far each day to find food and water.


Although the total numbers are low and their distribution patchy, the desert has a surprisingly large range of reptiles, none very big and most of them carnivorus. They include one plant-eating lizard—Uromastyx, Spiny-tailed Lizard. Having little or no internal means of regulating body temperatures, reptiles are even more restricted in their periods of activity; they must spend both the burning day and the cold parts of the night safely underground, where only a few inches from the surface the temperature range is much reduced. It is likely that some desert snakes are almost independent of water, obtaining all necessary moisture from their victims. The Sand Boa, a constrictor, lives in sandy desert and has a typical “swimming” motion to bury itself. At least four vipers are widely distributed, including two whose bites can be fatal to man (see Serpent). All are highly adapted to a desert life, with a movement known as “sidewinding”; the same method of progressing over loose sand has been developed independently by the American Sidewinders, which are desert rattlesnakes. Most snakes prob. take a range of prey, but it seems that they depend to some extent on the casualties from the flocks of small migrant birds which pass N between February and May, and S again in late summer and autumn. Some desert reptiles go into a resting state, called estivation, in the hottest weather. Many species of snake can survive without food for many months.

Dead Sea.

This is true desert, physiologically, for its high mineral content, about twenty-five per cent makes it useless for drinking, and no form of life is known to exist in it.

Large oases.

Within the desert are large oases with ample underground water, e.g. Yotvata; or with piped spring water, e.g. Ein Gedi. The irrigated fields and orchards form an artificial habitat and attract fauna not typical of the surrounding desert.

Sand dunes.

A feature of the Mediterranean coast, from around Gaza to beyond Haifa, is a discontinuous belt of rather mobile sand dunes, up to a few m. in width and up to 150 ft. high. These should not be confused with true desert dunes, which seldom carry vegetation. The coastal dunes enjoy reasonable rainfall but form a quasi-desert habitat, for until a layer of soil is formed water cannot be retained and only specialized plants thrive. The typical animals are those of the less extreme sandy desert—esp. the small rodents, whose tracks and entrances to burrows are seen widely, for such areas can support a denser population. Hedgehogs are also typical, the E and W species meeting somewhere in this area. As on similar coasts in other parts of the world, the dunes are to a large extent the result of human activity, by destroying woody cover and making movement of sand easier. Man is now reversing this process by fixing these dunes and thus recreating a habitat more favorable to both agriculture and animal life generally.

Lowlands and plains of Sharon and Esdraelon.

Much of this region is potentially fertile and it has been farmed in varying degrees since the dawn of history. In recent years all suitable parts have been so intensively occupied that little or no trace of their original cover now remains. Enjoying a fair, though sometimes marginal, rainfall and once covered with forest, scrub and marshland, they are now a complex of settlements, orchards and fields, mostly irrigated. The woodlands were the home of deer, notably Fallow and Roe Deer, and possibly Red Deer also, but these were driven out long ago and the nearest survivors today are in Persia and Turkey. Lions hunted here, though not as much as in the broken hill country and lower ground beyond. Bird life is likely to be more numerous today, for farms and orchards often support a richer and larger bird fauna than virgin wodlands. Many birds are resident and they are small rather than large; migrants pass through but are less obvious, for they are traveling on a broad front and have more cover. Dense beds of milk thistles often fill road verges and odd corners left fallow, providing food for many goldfinches and cover for other small birds. It is likely that most animals familiar to the shepherds of the hill country also went down to the plains at some seasons.

Rift valley.

From the Huleh area nearly to Jericho is a semi-tropical tract with many plants more typical of the Nile Valley, including papyrus. The lake fish most in demand is the Tilapia, a genus of Cichlid well represented in Central Africa, where it is one of the main food fishes of the great lakes. The deeply cut valley itself is lined in parts with almost impenetrable jungle in which wild boar, fishing cats and perhaps other large animals survive, but little is known of this area today for much of it is along a frontier where naturalists are not encouraged.

Hill country


Much of the Biblical narrative is set in the hills—from Galilee in the N through Samaria to beyond Bethlehem. The rainfall generally is above twenty-four inches, though it decreases rapidly on the E or leeward side. In the N large oaks can grow, but are now rare; over much of the area the naural climax is scrub, with taller trees growing in pockets of deeper soil. The olive is the commonest planted tree.


This region once provided a wide range of animal life, for it offered both browsing and grazing, while the rock formation gave shelter for mammals as varied as the brown bear and Syrian Rock Hyrax—the coney. Deer were the most important wild ungulates, with the Pal. gazelle. The former have long been lost; the Pal. gazelle was able to survive in drier country to the S and, under protection, has made a good recovery, living in fair numbers through the Judaean hills and even on the Plain of Esdraelon, where it takes little notice of tractors working in the fields. Bears and lions are extinct here, but the striped hyena and wolf linger in small numbers. The leopard once hunted in these hills and still just survives in the Jordan Valley. Smaller carnivores are locally common—fox, jackal, mongoose and badger—and on a day’s journey through these hills it is not unusual to see a run-over corpse on the road (see 3 F [5] below). Mole-rats push up small heaps in irregular lines wherever the soil is deep enough, but never appear above ground.

Birds and insects.

The Rock partridge is heard daily at some seasons but prefers running to flying and is seldom seen. The varied cover in the hills makes it the home of many perching birds, and the smaller migrants go through without being obvious. The resident Pal. jay and Hooded crow are often seen and heard, the latter waiting on the roadside to pick up small road casualties. The larger resident birds of prey are now rare and the main scavenger is the conspicuous black and white Egyp. vulture, which still frequents garbage heaps outside towns. The Harvester Ant is busy throughout spring gathering food supplies to store underground; the trail of husks, removed before storage and thrown out, marks the entrance clearly.


The largest venomous snake—Pal. viper—is found in the hills, as well as in most habitats other than true desert. Reaching a length of over four ft. and thickness of one inch, it must be treated with respect. It is considered responsible for more human casualities than any other snake, largely because it lives in inhabited areas.

Domestic stock.

Sheep and goats have always been the main stock in the hills, the latter causing serious damage to vegetation by their browsing habits. They may even climb trees to get what they cannot reach from the ground. The rolling hills in N Galilee are more suited to cattle raising. The hills are not really camel country but camels are still kept in small numbers as beasts of burden and for farm work in a few Arab areas, notably in Samaria, around Nazareth, and in the Druse district of N Israel, where they look strangely out of place in the green countryside.

Trans-Jordan hill country.

To the E, beyond Jordan, are further ranges of hills and broad plateau—the country of Ammon, Edom and Moab. These are distinctly drier than the western hills, which make the winds drop much of their rain, but the highest points are much higher—above 5,000 ft. above sea level—and the general conditions are more extreme, with the desert adjacent. In early times both lions and leopards were well known, though it is hard to speak with certainty of their prey. The land perhaps suited the Pers. race of Fallow Deer, which lived in poor scrub and dry woodlands. The onager was at the extremity of its range here and was still fairly common in a few places a cent. ago, though now extinct. (See Wild Ass.) Perhaps it came only to the edge of the hills from which the lions would hunt; in Africa zebras are their favorite prey and this could have been true of the closely related onager. Great numbers of sheep were kept in Ammon and Moab, as is suggested by the tax that Mesha King of Moab paid annually—100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams (2 Kings 3:4, 5). If the land could support such numbers, however skilfully managed, there had presumably been many wild ungulates, preyed on by suitable carnivores. Much of this area was camel country, though perhaps around rather than up in the hills, and these provided the basic transport for the traders whose routes ran straight through these lands.


Former extent.

There were once considerable areas of marshland: some, perhaps all, resulting from human activity around the former Lake Huleh, which also had much open water; on the Plains of Sharon and Esdraelon; and near the coast N of Haifa. The first was kept permanently wet by the lake through which the Jordan flowed, but the other areas perhaps dried out in part in summer. All have now been drained and reclaimed (see 3 F [4] below) but they once formed major barriers to invading armies and were a serious menace to health, for the most important insect living there was the Anopheles mosquito, carrier of malaria.


These marshes made a suitable habitat for the fishing cat. Frogs of several kinds and water tortoises were common. When the wild boar was driven out of other parts the marshes made a safe retreat, and its main stronghold today is around the Huleh Valley and in the dense jungle lining the lower Jordan.


Above all the marshes were breeding grounds for many water-loving birds, esp. members of the heron family; they are also refuges for countless waders (shore birds) ducks, terns and herons on the N and S migrations, as well as providing winter quarters for vast numbers of coots and ducks. A group of brackish water fishponds on the coast midway between Haifa and Tel Aviv, reclaimed from useless marsh, is now a wild life sanctuary, and during spring migration it is alive with birds headed for their breeding grounds in all parts of Central, E and N Europe.

Results of human interference


Large areas of Pal. and adjacent lands have become degraded through centuries of ill treatment and erosion; the flora was impoverished and the fauna diminished. In some parts, both town and country, man has used the ground so completely that no traces of original cover remain. As a direct result, the status of many animals has changed radically; a few are known, on good historical evidence, to have been exterminated from the area as a whole or from large parts of it. This change is largely quantitative, but to some extent qualitative also. Human action alone explains the position in the occupied areas; is this also true as a whole?

Climatic change or human damage?

Only one other factor need be considered here—the climate. Has this perhaps become less favorable since the Biblical period? If this were so, it would greatly complicate the assessment of conditions, say, 4,000 years ago, for the earlier potential would have been different; it could have included some species not on the present list, i.e. those which live in more moist conditions; and excluded others, i.e. those which demand drier conditions. One school of thought claims that destruction of tree cover has an adverse effect on climate—esp. on rainfall—while the planting of trees improves it. It is true that land with good woody cover makes better use of available water; also that forest on a hill top may sometimes just cause a cloud to shed rain, but this effect is so marginal as to be negligible. It has also been claimed that there has been a longterm swing to a drier climate, by those who cannot regard Pal. with its present climate as even potentially “flowing with milk and honey”; they are also mystified that the N Negev was successfully occupied for at least two long periods, widely separated. However, all evidence is against any significant climatic change, so that the vegetation of the various regions is still potentially what it was when the patriarchs first saw Canaan. The massive reduction in area and quality of cover is due solely to man’s action, direct and indirect. Regarding the Negev, botanists and agriculturalists have recently reconstructed the Nabatean earthworks at Avdat, abandoned c. a.d. 100, and used their specialized system of irrigation to establish farms and orchards, which suggests that the rainfall is no less now than it was then. Unchanged climate presuposes an unchanged climax vegetation; the fauna, dependent on this, is thus potentially the same. This somewhat simplifies the interpretation, even though man’s influence through the ages has been destructive and complex. This will now be discussed in sections.

General effect of human occupation.

With the advance of civilization and rapid increase of population, this has now become the overriding factor in nearly all parts of the world and at an increasing pace, but this process began very early, esp. in the lands around Pal. Man affects animal life mainly in two ways. First, by occupying land, turning forest and scrub into farm and raiding much larger areas for fuel, he so changed the habitat that many animals moved out; some because there was no room for them, others because they would not tolerate interference. In general, the larger species are most adversely affected; smaller kinds may be helped by human activity and become much more numerous as a result, some even becoming pests that must be controlled. Second, man took direct action against various animals, either killing them or driving them away. These fall into several classes: (1) The browsing and grazing animals, e.g. antelopes, cattle and wild horses, which were competitors with domestic stock. Many of these, and others also, were good for food or desired as trophies or totems, and were therefore hunted or trapped. (2) Beasts of prey—wolf, bear, lion etc.—which are potential enemies to man himself and his livestock. (3) Animals, other than predators, that are dangerous to life and health, e.g. venomous snakes and a wide range of noxious insects. The total result is to reduce seriously the range of many animals that were once widespread. For instance, within historic times the lion was found through much of SW Asia, but is now reduced to a small group of some 200 in the Gir Peninsula of India. The aurochs, ancestor of the main cattle stock, disappeared for good early in the 17th cent., and the wild forebears of both kinds of camels were prob. lost soon after these were domesticated.

The Fertile Crescent.

Since the dawn of civilization man has been busy exploiting and destroying his environment, but his impact has varied from country to country and in the course of time. In Mesopotamia, for instance, long periods of comparative peace allowed the development of great cities and cultures, based on efficient agriculture. Much of the wild flora and fauna disappeared and, in time, widespread desiccation caused irreversible degradation of the habitat. This latter did not occur in Egypt, where the Nile periodically renewed the fertility of the land as well as watering it. The larger fauna survived only in regions such as mountains and deserts, which were self-protecting, and in hunting reserves which the kings established and guarded carefully for their own pleasure.


As a whole this area enjoyed no such period of prolonged peace, the longest apparently being under David and Solomon; this began toward the end of David’s reign and was over before Solomon’s death. (Before the Heb. invasion the land had been owned by a patchwork of tribes and nations and it is doubtful if occupation was ever complete.) Century after cent. saw unrest and guerilla warfare, or massive campaigns. Except perhaps for the valley of Esdraelon, few parts were used intensively and throughout this time the wild fauna was prob. less affected than in most nearby lands. Several successive periods of deportation and scattering, with big resultant casualties, kept the population low, and Pal. continued to be a troubled area, under Gr. and then Rom. rule, until well into the Christian era. It seems likely that through most of these periods much of the natural vegetation remained untouched, and a sanctuary for wild animals, with comparatively little change in the fauna from the days of the Judges until the time of the Crusades. If this hypothesis is true the wild life which the Biblical writers from Moses onward knew was richer and much more prolific than what is there today, and it came much closer to the everyday lives of the ordinary people. A limited area would be under cultivation at any time; flocks and herds were led over wide areas to find grazing, but they were always controlled and protected, against both predators and raiders from other tribes. Under such conditions the hillside soil remained stable and safe, with little or no serious erosion. Between the rise of Islam and the end of the 19th cent. the damage was far greater than in all the preceding centuries, though it is hard to know just when this serious change began. The damage had three main causes:

(1) Livestock, esp. goats, ranged uncontrolled and destroyed vegetation of all kinds, leaving steep hillsides exposed to fierce winter rain storms, which quickly removed the thin layer of soil that had been built up slowly over many centuries. This lack of control continues in many Arab countries today; in places along the Israel/Jordan border in spring the noticeably green vegetation on the one side, where goats must always be tethered, is in marked contrast to the brown of the exposed soil on the other.

(2) Many trees, within and outside the farmed areas, were cut for firewood, charcoal and timber, with similar effect. During one period of Turkish rule a tree tax was imposed, which the Arabs avoided simply by cutting down their trees.

(3) As soil deteriorated the unit yield dropped and larger areas had to be brought into cultivation, including some of the steeper slopes. This would have been reasonably safe if conservative methods of farming had been used, with plowing only along the contours, but this principle was not generally understood, though the Phoenicians had early practiced it, and the usual result was progressive erosion. The farming of hillsides in Upper Galilee was a factor in filling much of Lake Huleh with silt and so creating swamps which were drained during the 1950s.

In such comparatively hot countries, where the variable rainfall mostly comes in heavy storms in winter and spring when the ground has least natural cover, these changes can be almost irreversible. The position can be restored only by long, painstaking effort, in contourplowing and planting, which is highly expensive in labor, for such work can hardly be mechanized.

Modern developments.

The 20th cent. has introduced several new factors which have complicated the position still further. The first two are direct and the others indirect in their effects.

(1) High-powered rifles brought danger to larger desert animals that had previously been approachable only with great difficulty. Fast motorized transport, and the advent of great wealth from oil, made things much worse and within a few years the Desert Oryx was high on the world list of threatened species. The Pal. and Dorcas gazelles were greatly reduced.

(2) The creation of the state of Israel attracted zoologists and naturalists from countries with a tradition of wild life conservation that was entirely new. The establishment of sanctuaries and nature reserves, with a more humane national attitude, has made Israel an area where animal life of all kinds is less harassed than it has been for a long time, and the gazelles are now safe again; but this factor cannot help the oryx, of which the nearest is well over 1,000 m. away in S Arabia. In some other states the official attitude to wild life is changing somewhat, but this cuts right across the Arab philosophy, which includes little thought for wild animals, large or small, except as something that Allah has provided for them to eat—and will go on providing. This callous disregard for wild life has added markedly to the more indirect damage that the fauna has suffered in recent centuries.

(3) The extensive tree-planting programs, both in forests and roadside shelter-belts, and in orchards, and the introduction of irrigated cultivation over large areas have created new habitats and conditions which have allowed many species, esp. birds, to improve their status radically. For instance, the Palm dove, once a largely African species, has spread so widely and become so numerous that it is locally a pest and seems to be driving out the turtle dove. The African bulbul has also come from the S and moved into gardens and orchards, being useful to man when it catches insects to feed its young, but doing damage later to ripening fruit.

(4) Land reclamation programs have been started, often with international help. The object is to restore woody cover to eroded hillsides, though often with introduced species of trees which are expected in time to produce a more useful crop than the native scrub. The end result can thus be different from the original climax vegetation, but always more favorable to most forms of animal life than the degraded cover which it replaces. The draining of Lake Huleh is a different type of reclamation which has resulted in a major change of land usage; the area remains useful as a resting and feeding place for migrants, but it is no longer a habitat fit for the larger wild animals and great flocks of water birds that once lived there.

(5) Intensive arable farming has resulted in serious plagues of rodents, esp. voles. These have often been attacked with permanent poisons such as thallium; the dead and dying animals have been taken by birds and beasts of prey, and these in turn have died, to be eaten with fatal results by jackals, hyenas, vultures and other scavengers. Before the danger was realized the breeding population of some of the animals concerned had been reduced to about ten per cent. Many years of protection will be needed to restore the situation fully. A similar chain of damage has been started by the use of resistant insecticides.

Results of introducing new plants and animals.

There is still another way in which man has affected the fauna of Pal.—by the deliberate introduction of plants and animals from other lands. Among the former should be listed crops of most kinds, few of which are truly native; these are an integral part of agriculture, the general effect of which has been discussed. This is true also of domesticated animals; even if they are derived from once local species their impact on the land is quite different and this, too, is a concomitance of farming. Introduction of exotic wild animals has been on a more limited scale than in many temperate countries, where this practice has sometimes resulted in catastrophic damage, first to the vegetation and then to native animals. Such few as can be cited for Pal. are quasi-domesticated and of these only the carp is worth discussion. This cultured form has been kept in fishponds for many centuries (see Fishing). It is now the basis of an intensive fish-breeding industry in great complexes of artificial ponds, esp. in the Jordan Valley. Occasional escapees find their way down into the Lake of Galilee, where they are caught by net fishermen; the carp fills a manmade niche and its introduction is unlikely to affect adversely either other fish or animals of other classes, if only because it is edible and valuable, and therefore worth controlling.


The above are prob. the most important factors that have combined to produce the changed and impoverished flora and fauna that a visitor to the Holy Land sees today. The birds, esp. the small migrants, have changed least of all. The larger mammals have been reduced to a tiny remnant, seen only by the energetic enthusiast but in places responding to protection. Livestock continue to be the most conspicuous animals, but even here a major change is taking place. Intensive animal husbandry is putting cattle and sheep, and even chickens, more or less permanently into stalls or under cover, esp. in the desert settlements such as Yotvata and Ein Gedi, while the tractor is steadily replacing the ass, horse and camel in all parts for work in the fields, and the bicycle and car are taking over for personal transport.


H. B. Tristram, The Natural History of the Bible, 9th ed. (1898); N. Glueck, The River Jordan (1946); W. F. Albright, The Archeology of Palestine, 2nd. ed. (1954); D. Baly, The Geography of the Bible (1957) (with full classified bibliography for all regions); F. S. Bodenheimer, Animal and Man in Bible Lands (1960) (with very detailed references to classical authors); P. Merom, The Death of the Lake (n.d. but c. 1961) (a pictorial record of draining Lake Huleh); F. E. Zeuner, A History of Domesticated Animals (1963) (with exhaustive references, esp. to scientific periodicals); D. L. Harrison, Mammals of Arabia, Vol. I (1964), Vol. II (1968), Vol. III (1972) (a definitive work covering the areas S of Pal.).