Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land

by The Tisch Family Zoological Gardens, the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land
Bringing Biblical Deer to the Holy Land

This past week, the Jerusalem Hills were devastated by what appears to be a deliberately-lit fire which tore through thousands of acres of forest.

The thick smoke from the fire was seen from Jerusalem as the skies darkened over the city.

At the Zoo, we also saw the smoke overhead and ashes fell at the Zoo, which is around 15 kilometers away from where the center of the blaze was.

Our thoughts went immediately to our Persian fallow deer, who are part of the Zoo’s successful re-introduction project in the Jerusalem Hills.

The acclimatization enclosure for the project and the main area where the deer live is in the area of Nahal Sorek.

The Zoo conservation team were in touch with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, who are our partners in this important endeavor, throughout the day and night.

Luckily the fire did not go down from the direction of Har HaTayassim to the Nahal Sorek gorge.

This is good news for our deer, they had a place to go.

The vast majority of the area in which they are concentrated has not been damaged.

The fires have been put out and we hope to hear soon an update on the status of the deer. Initial reports are that they have survived the fires and are in an area which has not been burnt that can provide them with food and shleter

 

In the picture taken by an INPA ranger:

An older female with a GPS collar (an earlier release from the Zoo’s breeding core) together with fawn who was born this year; another female whose neck we cannot see in the picture, so it is not possible to determine whether she was released from the Zoo or is a nature-born deer; and the fourth deer is a young nature-born deer.

 

Take Care – may we only know good news!

 

Rachael and the Deer Conservation Team

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Last month, four fallow deer born at the Zoo and aged one and a half years old were released into the wild.

This is an age where they can be independent in nature. Before their release, the deer underwent health tests and vaccinations and were fitted with a collar with a GPS transmitter.

They were then taken to the Nahal Sorek Nature Reserve in the Jerusalem Hills and released. For the first three weeks, they will be in a special acclimatization complex, in order to adapt to life in the wild on the one hand, and be protected on the other. At the end of the acclimatization period, they move into the open hills.

The Zoo's Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Nili Avni Magen: "Over the years, we have released several dozen fallow deer into Nahal Sorek. In the last four years, we have seen fawns born in the wild, a second generation, born to mothers who were also born in the wild. This shows that the population is stabilizing. The return of Persian fallow deer to the Israeli landscape is one of the most successful examples of the return of an extinct species to nature."

Persian fallow deer were known to have habituated the Land of Israel and are even mentioned in the Bible, but they became extinct at the beginning of the last century. About forty years ago, a small number of fallow deer were brought to Israel from Germany and Iran.

In the 1990s, the project of returning them to Israeli nature began. At first, fallow deer were released in the Nahal Kaziv Reserve, and in recent years, fallow deer have begun to be released to the Nahal Sorek Reserve area. Across the country, there is currently a stable population of over 200 fallow deer, dozens of them in Nahal Sorek.

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Another successful year of this program has been completed.

In the last three years, 24 individuals were released to the wild:

8 in 2018 (2 females, 6 males)

9 in 2019 (6 females, 3 males)

7 in 2020 (3 females and 4 males).

GPS tracking has improved significantly as the number of transmitting individuals increased from 3 to 11 (in its peak) in the last 3 years. Furthermore, our expertise in using GPS tracking has improved significantly, as a result we are collecting and analysing more accurate and larger volumes of spatial data

Looking back at what we have achieved: in 2017 – 2018, the status of the introduction of fallow deer in the "Nahal Soreq" nature reserve was unclear to the point of questioning its viability. After 3 years of comprehensive efforts, research and analysis, the project status is unfolding presenting positive indications regarding its potential success:

  • Population size is estimated to have increased in the last 3 years from 40-50 individuals (2018) to 90-100 (2020).
  • Evidence of fawns born in the wild is being collected repeatedly showing an increase in photo event numbers each year.
  • Evidence of fawns of nature-born females (third generation) was collected for the first time last year and continues to be collected again this year.
  • The total number of nature-born photo events keeps increasing significantly from year to year, thus supporting positive evidence of population stability.
  • In the last 3 years we have positively identified 23 marked males and 27 marked females still roaming in the wild

One of the highlights for us the other month was to see these pictures on our trail cameras of this magificent, nature-born, male deer in the area of Har HaTayasim, in the Jerusalem Hills!

We look forward to the continuation of these successes as we enter into 2021.

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Credit: Amy Katz
Credit: Amy Katz

One of the exciting aspects of this conservation project is the ongoing participation of local communities in our efforts.

Residents of nearby towns and visitors to the national parks share with us fallow deer observations thus supporting our efforts and contributing to our data.

Community outreach and public awareness is an important part of long-term education that contributes to the success of the project.

A number of camera traps, contributed by the Segre Fondation, are set up in a radius around our release site in the Jerusalem hills and together with photographs sent to us, we use the data to discover more information about deer activity in the area - or lack of activity, which can also inform us about deer moving out in to new areas

This past year there was a very significant decrease in male photo events from our cameras. This is in contrast with deer encounters reported by hikers and nearby residents – over 90% of photos we receive from these sources are of males.

This could be partially explained by the fact that males are known to roam and cover more ground, thus reaching major trails, roads and villages, while females tend to stay hidden and cover less ground (all camera traps are located within natural areas, covered by dense vegetation and hidden from humans).

There is a very significant increase in total female photo events. This could be an encouraging sign of a relative high survival rates of females and of a relatively high breeding potential of the population.

Two photographs taken by a hiker (who used to work at the Jerusalem Zoo) made waves on social media and were even shared by the State of Israel's official twitter account. Such publicity serves to expose an even larger public to the importance of conservation and environmental issues in the country.

Stay safe and well, 

Rachael and the Deer Team

Credit: Amy Katz
Credit: Amy Katz
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At the end of Februaty, seven Persian Fallow deer from the breeding core at the Zoo were released into the wild at the Nahal Sorek Nature Reserve in the Jerusalem Hills.

These four males and three females will join the nine deer released last year and we hope to be able to release another group next year.

Uzi Shamir, who heads up the Zoo's native conservation projects, reports that the deer are curently being held in an acclimatization enclosure at the release site, which is checked daily, and all are doing well. 

Next week, the gates to the enclosure will be opened and the deer will be free to go into the wild. This process usually takes a few days. 

The project is in partnership with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority 

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Organization Information

The Tisch Family Zoological Gardens, the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem

Location: Jerusalem, Israel - Israel
Website:
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Twitter: @BiblicalZoo
Project Leader:
Nicole Wexler
Jerusalem, Israel
$13,945 raised of $20,000 goal
 
157 donations
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