The Sand Cat (Felis Margarita)

This is a small cat with a wide, flat head and brownish-gray coloring. The soles of its feet are covered in long hair enabling it to move along the desert sands. The Sand Cat moves from bush to bush in hiding, thus finding protection from large predators. When it is discovered, it crouches without moving and closes its eyes.

In the past few years, because it has lost its sandy habitat in the Arava, due to the establishment of farms and sand mining, the Sand Cat has most likely become extinct in Israel. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority’s attempt to bring the Sand Cat back to nature, has so far not been successful. It is possible that a few are still living in the sand dunes in Jordan

The Sand Cat

The Caracal (Caracal)

The Caracal is a medium-sized wild cat known for the tufts of long black hair on the tips of its ears. Its hind legs are longer than the front legs which enables the Caracal to spring to a height of over 2 meters and catch birds in flight. The territory of a male Caracal in the Arava can reach 220 sq. kilometers. Within one male’s territory, there can be several female territories.

The Caracal’s natural habitat in the Arava has also been greatly affected and today it is in danger of extinction.

The Caracal

The Leopard (Panthera Pardus)

The leopard is the largest wild cat in Israel. The distribution of its spots is unique to each and every one, and this makes them easily identified. The male is larger than the female. The male has a large territory which spreads over tens of sq. kilometers and has 1-3 female territories within it. The desert leopard is relatively smaller than those in Africa and there are no incidents of the leopard attacking a human in Israel. The leopard population in the Arava, the Negev and the Judean Desert is in severe danger of extinction and consists, according to estimates, of less than ten.

The Leopard

Rüppell's Fox (Sand Fox)  (Vulpes Ruppellii)

This is a small and light colored fox whose long ears are also light in color (unlike the dark ears of the common fox), the chest, belly and tip of the tail are white. The furry pads increase the area of the foot enabling the fox to move easily and quickly on sandy areas.

There has been a sharp decrease in the number of Sand Foxes in the Arava in the past few years due to loss of natural habitat, and due to Common Foxes and Jackals overtaking those remaining (the Common Fox and the Common Jackal have become quite prevalent in the Arava in the past few years). Presently, the this Fox is in severe danger of extinction.


Rüppell's Fox


The Wolf (Canis Lopus)

The wolf is the largest predator of the canine family and its main characteristics are its long, sloping tail, and the white fur around its mouth. The Arava Wolf is smaller than those found in Northern Europe and America and its average weight is only 20 kilogram. The wolves live in packs that can number up to 17 members. There is a clear social order in the pack and only the Alfa male and female reproduce. The wolves mark their territory by leaving urine and droppings on protruding bushes and rocks. In the past few years there has been an increase in the number of wolves in the Arava and the number of sightings has increased.


The Wolf


The Striped Hyena (Hayaena Hayaena)

This is the largest of the predators in Israel. Despite what many think, the Hyena does not belong to the canine species. (It is actually closer related to the cat species). The Striped Hyena is a solitary animal and the sexes meet up only for a short period during the mating season. The Hyena eats mainly carcasses, which it drags and pulls into its lair. Its muscle structure, jaws and teeth are suited for cracking large bones.

Many Hyenas are run over when they come to eat road kill carcasses of other animals. The population of Hyenas has decreased in the past years and it is in danger of extinction.


The Striped Hyena

The Onager (Asiatic Wild Ass) (Equus Hemionus)

The Onager is a wild ass with a brown back and a white belly. Its head is large, its ears are small and its mane is short. It received its name because it could not be domesticated (unlike the ass that was domesticated and became the domestic donkey). Onagers move in herds with a ruling male and a “harem” of females, single males move in herds between territories.

The Onager became extinct in our region at the beginning of the last century and returned to the region of the Ramon Crater in the 1980s. Today there are many herds of wild asses in the Negev, some of these even reach the Arava.

The Onager (Asiatic Wild Ass)

The Arabian Oryx  (Oryx Leucoryx)

Oryx have large and white hooves and long, curved horns. Their noses, foreheads and chins each have brown spots distinctive to each individual Oryx and these are most likely used for identification. In the past the Oryx was common throughout the entire Middle East but it has become totally extinct due to uncontrolled hunting. In 1996, the first herd of Oryx was brought back to Ein Shachak in the Arava and since then several additional herds have returned. Today the population status is good and they breed well in nature. Some believe that the tale of the unicorn originated from people who viewed the Arabian Oryx from afar.  


The Arabian Oryx

The Nubian Ibex (Capra Nubiana)

The Nubian Ibex is a species of the southern wild goat which is very common in the desert. Its short legs are well suited for climbing cliffs. The horns of the male are large and they continue to grow throughout its lifetime. They live in large herds that have a social hierarchy. The herds are divided into females, kids, young, older and adult males. The hierarchy is determined according to the size of the goat’s body and horns and by aggressive wrestling between males. In the past they were in severe danger of extinction, however following increasing acts of rescue and natural preservation, the population has grown and they can be seen in rocky landscapes and along the Negev and the Judean Desert.


The Nubian Ibex

The Dorcas (or Ariel) Gazelle (Gazella Dorcas)

Smaller and more delicate than the Palestine Mountain Gazelle, they live in the dry desert riverbeds that are abundant in vegetation and they also eat from the Acacias. The Gazelle does not need water to survive and gets all the fluids it needs from the vegetation it consumes. It is a social animal. The adult males create territory borders and mark these with mounds of droppings and urine (“smelling stations”). The females move around within the territory in a small herd. Up until the 1960s, the Dorcas Gazelle suffered from uncontrolled hunting which greatly harmed the population. Today it is considered a protected species and it is forbidden to harm these Gazelles.


The Dorcas (or Ariel) Gazelle

The Rock Hyrax   (Procavia Capensis)

The Rock Hyrax, also known as Rock Badger, Rock Rabbit and Cape Hyrax has small paws, is brown in color and has short ears and tail. The dominant males often sit on high rock formations watching over the group of females and youngsters. It is active during the day and lives in rocky areas. When the climate grows colder they huddle in a group and keep warm together.

The testicles of the Hyrax are internal and its period of gestation is relatively long. These facts place the Hyrax in the same group as the Elephant and the Manatee.


The Rock Hyrax


The Cairo Spiny Mouse  (Acomys Cahirinus)

Also known as the Common Spiny Mouse, it is a middle sized rodent from the Muridae family. It gets its name from the fur on its back. The Cairo Spiny Mouse is common all over Israel, however it changes color according to the ground color of its habitat. It is nocturnal but does not dig tunnels. During the day it rests in rock crevices or goes into tunnels abandoned by other rodents. It eats at regular spots which are called “eating tables” and it likes insects and snails.



The Cairo Spiny Mouse

The Balochistan or Dwarf Gerbil  (Gerbillus Nanus)

This is a small Gerbil common in the Arava. Its back is yellowish-gray and its belly is white. It lives in hard sands and stony plateaus in the Arava. It is nocturnal and during the day it lives in a tunnel one meter in length, at the end of which is a wider chamber used as a shelter and for food storage.



The Balochistan or Dwarf Gerbil

The Lesser Egyptian Jerboa (Jaculus Jaculus)

This is a medium sized rodent from the Jerboa family. Its hind legs are more than three times longer than its front legs. It has a very long tail. The Jerboa moves forward by hopping on its back legs while using its tail as a rudder. It can spring to a height of over one meter and to a distance of over two meters. In the mating season the male invades the female’s burrow and courts her by drumming on her head and caressing her tail using its small front legs.

The Jerboa is nocturnal and sometimes can be seen in the late afternoon or at dawn. It is in danger of extinction due to loss of habitat.



The Lesser Egyptian Jerboa

The Fat Sand Rat  (Psammomys Obesus)

The Fat Sand Rat is classed the largest mammal from the gerbil sub-species, and is the only one of this species that is active during the day.

The Fat Sand Rat digs its tunnels near bushes from the Beetroot family (Amaranthaceous) which it also eats. In the event it does not get its food from these plants it can develop diabetes and therefore it is considered a very important “lab rodent” in researching this disease. Additionally it serves as a carrier of the Leishmania parasite. It is stung by a Sand Fly carrying this parasite and can pass it on to other animals. When a human is stung by this fly a festering wound develops, better known as “Shoshanat Jericho” – cutaneous Leishmaniasis. It is therefore not recommended to sleep near the tunnels of the Sand Rat nor near the Amaranth bushes.



The Fat Sand Rat

The Desert Long-Eared Bat (Otonycteris Hemprichii)

This bat is from the Vespertilionidae family. Its ears are huge and almost twice the length of its head. When searching for food, the ears pitch forward and when resting they are folded. The Desert Long-Eared Bat is common in the central and northern Arava and spends its day in rock crevices. The female has two sets of nipples on her chest. When it is disturbed in its place of rest it usually generates a gentle buzzing noise.



The Desert Long-Eared Bat from Wikipadia upload by Charlotte Roemer

Botta’s Serotine (Eptesicus Bottae)

This is medium sized bat from the Vesper family. It is common in the Arava. It is nocturnal and during the day it hides in rock crevices. Its sense of sonar, a system called echolocation, is very well developed. It is very active and has an extremely fast metabolism, which is aided by a particularly large heart, three times larger than that of the Common Mouse (similar in size).



Botta’s Serotine

The Lesser Mouse-Tailed Bat (Rhinopoma Hardwickii)

This small bat, commonly found in the Dead Sea rift, roosts in small colonies of up to ten. It spends its days in caves and small niches and at night it looks for insects which it finds, like most bats, by emitting high frequency sounds (which the human ear is unable to hear) and receiving an echo in return (sonar). It gets its name from its long tail which begins in the interfemoral membrane (between the legs). The end of the tail has a hair sensor that helps it navigate when entering a rock crevice in reverse.



The Lesser Mouse-Tailed Bat

The Desert Hedgehog  (Parachinus Aethiopicus)

This Hedgehog only lives in a desert environment. It is easy to identify because of the black “mask” on its face and the bald stripe on its head. The Desert Hedgehog is nocturnal but can also be seen in the late afternoon, or early morning. It has a well-developed sense of smell and hearing.



The Desert Hedgehog