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

At the beginning of March, we released a large group of nine Persian Fallow #deer from the breeding center at the Zoo into the wild at the Nahal Sorek Nature Reserve in the #Jerusalem hills.

Three females and six males were released, and of these, seven deer were fitted with GPS tracking collars.

In the past, only the females are fitted with GPS collars. This is because the males’ necks can expand during the breeding season which means that the collars can snap and break.

This year we have acquired special elastic collars that expand when needed and thus were able to fit collars to some of the males as well.

Nadav Ganot, the Zoo’s #conservation project coordinator, reports that all the deer are doing well in the acclimatization enclosure and in the coming weeks, 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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Photo: Ariel Kedem, INPA
Photo: Ariel Kedem, INPA

We are pleased to update that, from what we know up until now, there were no fatalities among our deer herd during the devastating fires in the Jerusalem hills several months ago.

A number of our trail cameras were burnt but no corpses have been found.

We also have a number of photos and sightings of the deer returning to the area.

The Zoo has a new conservation coordinator, who will be taking responsibility for Persian fallow deer program, as well as the other native conservation programs at the Zoo.

Nadav Granot has a Master of Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Ecology and his Master's Thesis was on the topic of: “Examination of Time-place Association in The Foraging Behavior of Common Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus)”

He is already working with one of the students on the Zoo’s matriculation program researching the topic: “The effect of forest fires on the behavior and movement of Persian fallow deer in the area of the Nahal Sorek Reserve.”

This work will examine whether there is a difference in the herd’s movement of before and after the forest fire in the Judean hills in August 2021 and the research will utilize data collection from field trips, use of trail cameras and analysis of deer movement data (data from GPS collar transmitters).

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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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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
$15,755 raised of $20,000 goal
 
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