11 April 2008

Hyenas, foxes and wild cats in the Middle East

It's amazing that in the Middle East, after thousands of years of exploitation and abuse by humans, there are still large mammals left in the wild.

Abi-Said & Abi-Said (2007) report that striped hyaenas (Hyaena hyaena syriaca) remain widely distributed in Lebanon. Although their survey doesn't give any indication of what the population levels of the hyaenas may be, it does show that the hyaenas are, unfortunately, still being persecuted; national newspapers reported 23 incidents of hyaenas having been killed during 1999-2001. Curiously, among the 2 nature reserves included in the survey, one had the lowest relative abundance of hyaenas, while the other had no signs of them.

Among the 3 factors the authors think may have contributed to the continuing presence of the striped hyaena in Lebanon, one is especially ironic.

The civil war of 1975-1991 and the Israeli invasion of 1982 resulted in the displacement of many people from their own villages. Furthermore, the land was extensively land-mined by the warring parties. As a result, people were forced to leave their lands, which in turn grew wild, thereby restoring some lost habitats for wildlife.
So, at least in this case, the bloody human conflicts were good for something. Another contributing factor they cite is the presence of widespread garbage dumps throughout the countryside, which apparently provide food for the omnivorous hyaenas. War and human waste coming to the rescue of wildlife? It sort of shows us the position of Homo sapiens in the grand scheme of things, doesn't it?

Another paper in the same issue of the Zoology in the Middle East (Serra et al., 2007) reports the occurrence of Rüppell's fox (Vulpes rueppelli) and the sand cat (Felis margarita) inside the Al-Talila Reserve in Syria. It's good to know that at least some animals are making use of the wildlife reserves.

Mounir R. Abi-Said & Diana Marrouche Abi-Said (2007). Distribution of the Striped Hyaena (Hyaena hyaena syriaca Matius, 1882) (Carnivora: Hyaenidae) in urban and rural areas of Lebanon. Zoology in the Middle East 42: 3-14.

Serra, G., Abdallah, M.S. & Al Qaim, G. (2007). Occurrence of Rüppell's Fox,
Vulpes rueppelli, and sand cat Felis margarita in Syria. Zoology in the Middle East 42: 99-101.

1 comment:


Jackels are fairly commonly heard at night in the farm land west of the Sea of Galilea.
Allen Aigen