The raging wildfire in the Jerusalem mountains is causing unfathomable damage not only to nearby communities and the hundreds of acres of land surrounding them but also to the diverse flora and fauna that inhabited the once lush landscape.
According to estimations, the fight against the blaze — which has thus far claimed hundreds of thousands of animals, including numerous species of reptiles, rodents, insects and hundreds of different species of mammals — will persist through the coming days.
"Most of the affected area is a protected area that belongs to the Judean Mountains National Park, whose purpose was to enable ecological processes to take place,” Nature and Parks Authority ecologist Dr. Yariv Malichi said.
“This means that the damaged area is not just a grove or agricultural land… But areas considered core areas of flora and fauna,” Malichi said, adding that no less than 5,000 acres of land have been scorched alongside thousands of species of plants and animals.
“Be it the rare orchids that once grew on the Pilots' Mountain in the Jerusalem Hills, or the herds of fallow deer and common deer we see running around in the fires looking for a safe haven,” he added.
“Fortunately, the nesting season for poultry is over. There are birds that spend the summer here and will have to find food elsewhere when they come back."
Despite the heavy damage, Malichi remains optimistic.
"This is a severe blow, but not a catastrophe. From our experience — nature finds a way to recover from such events, but it will undoubtedly need our help,” Malichi said.
"The real catastrophe will be if another fire breaks out within 3–4 years. The problem is not a one-time fire, but the frequency of the fires. That is what we are worried about.”
As for aiding the mountain's delicate ecological system, Malichi said the environmental group was working to dilute unwanted vegetation, as well as to perform wildlife surveys meant to safeguard the area’s ecological balance by making sure no one species grows at the expense of other species.
"The most important thing is to let the system rehabilitate itself. In order for it to happen, we may need to put restrictions on hiking trails, both for safety reasons and to let nature recover,” Malichi added.
“[For fauna] there are groups of mammals that recover within a year or two, there are groups of insects that take a little more time to recover, reptiles as well. Some species recover within a year, others take 7–8 years. Trees, meanwhile, start their recovery process within the first year after the disaster.”