Palestinian shepherds used
to watching their flocks by night can rest a
little easier this Christmas, thanks to
unusual glad tidings brought by Israel's
Israel built the barrier,
which snakes through hundreds of miles of
the West Bank as protection against suicide
bombers. But while the 30ft-high, concrete
and chain-link barricade is widely loathed
by most Palestinians, it is proving a
valuable shield for shepherds in the north
of the territory — against wolves.
The wolves are originally
from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights,
where they have long roamed the rugged and
largely deserted landscape.
In recent years, their
numbers have multiplied and packs have
spread to both sides of the Sea of Galilee,
where the gospels tell of Jesus walking on
From there they colonised
the Gilboa mountains and — especially when
food was scarce — would roam into the West
Bank, near the town of Jenin, threatening
Dror Pevsner, northern
director of Israel's Nature and Parks
Authority (NPA), said: "The wolves would
head into the West Bank to eat. There are a
lot of Palestinian shepherds around Jenin."
But now the wolves are
being kept from their usual source of supper
by the West Bank barrier.
Alon Reichmann, a predator
expert with the NPA, said: "Along the Gilboa
the fence separates wolves from their
Instead, Israeli cattle
farmers and their livestock are now paying
the price of a lupine population explosion.
Ten years ago, there were
just two or three wolf packs in the region.
Now the NPA estimates there are 15, each
with five adults and young. Ofer Israel, a
Golan rancher who owns 220 cattle, said:
"The wolf population is growing far too
"They're fast and they're
smart, and they take calves and colts up to
a year old. I've even seen a pack of six
attack a 300kg heifer.
"They are killing our
living. Each animal they kill is worth 4,000
shekels (£500) and if you let them alone
they would kill 15 to 20 head per 100
cattle. In the past two months I've lost six
calves to them."
Mr Israel said that he and
other cattle farmers often took matters into
their own hands, ignoring strict regulations
in much of the Golan aimed at protecting the
wolf. "I've tried to shoot them, but often
they just disappear before you can get your
gun," he admitted.
Now much of the Golan
pasture is ringed by 8ft high electric
fences designed specifically to ward off
wolves. "But the wolf is always learning,"
said Mr Reichmann. "Some can even climb
Wolves also team up with
other animals to circumvent the barriers.
"Porcupines are very good at digging under
fences, and wild boars are very strong and
can tear some down. Then the wolf follows,"
Mr Reichmann said. "Every year we see that
they are migrating further and further."
But even the combined
efforts of the Holy Land's wildest wildlife
cannot break through the West Bank barrier.
"It's a problem," said Mr
Reichmann. But he said that a solution to
his troubles may be on the way, which could
put an end to Palestinian shepherds' "Silent
"We are asking for holes
under the fence, something which humans
couldn't get through but which animals
could," he said. "It would be like a
cat-flap for wolves."
For once, perhaps,
Palestinians will be hoping the Israeli army
vetos any breaches of the barrier.
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