On Chol HaMoed of Sukkot Maayan and the kids visited the Carmel Hai- Bar Nature Reserve in Israel. This reserve serves as a breeding and reacclimation center for animals that used to live in the Carmel mount region, and that have become extinct in the region in the early 20th century, due to human activities such as hunting, poisoning, and destruction of their natural habitat. Since it isn’t a zoo but a nature reserve that revolves around animal reacclimation, the guided tour provided by the site every half hour is essential.
We began the tour with an observation over the Mt. Carmel National Park, an area slowly rehabilitating from the great fire that consumed vast parts of the forest about five years ago. It was moving to see how, despite the destruction, the reserve has managed to survive, and the animals, as well as the surrounding vegetation (in an area referred to as “Little Switzerland”, after the green thicket covering it, which was destroyed by an earlier fire about 20 years ago) were unharmed and rehabilitating nicely. Visible in the area are young blooming pine trees, and newly sprouted green boughs among the charred oak and Pistacia trunks, characteristic of the area.
After the impressive viewpoint of the Kelach and Galim streams, toward the University of Haifa and all the way to the sea, we watched a video recounting the story of the Hai- Bar, and of the animals extinct from the Carmel region that are now gradually retuning to it, and to other areas in the Galilee. The kids took a great interest in the video, which illustrated the purpose of the reserve and the upcoming sights in the tour very well.
We continued the guided tour and passed through the different animal sites in the reserve: the salamander pool, preserving the endangered species’ habitat; the Palestine mountain gazelle’s site- an animal that now lives all across Israel, from Mt. Harmon to the central Negev; the wild goat and Mouflon sheep site, both animals who had lived in Israel thousands of years ago, and are even mentioned in the bible, but due to climate change are not meant for reacclimation into the wild.
Later, we reached the Persian fallow deer area, a member of the deer family named in the bible its Hebrew name after its red loam- colored hide. Reacclimating the Persian fallow deer into the wild has great ecological significance, since it’s a big leaf and grass eater, which helps prune the trees and bushes all year round, and by doing so assists in thinning out the thicket and preventing the spreading of forest fires. This impressive animal has been released into the wild in different areas of the Galilee since the mid-nineties, carrying a transmitter that allows their tracking.
We finished our tour at the vultures’’ cage, used to start breeding cores for vultures and other endangered birds of prey, and from there returned to the reserve’s gates on foot.
By Maayan Hess Ashkenazi