Fauna and Flora:
The Negev higland’s eco-system is characterized by a wide range of unique biodiversity functioning under extreme environmental conditions related to temperature and water stresses.
In the Negev highland there are 21 species of land snails, 41 species of reptiles, 55 species of mammals, 201 species of nesting birds and 30 species of butterflies.
In Makhtesh Ramon there are fewer species due to the harsher conditions.
A partial list of the animals wondering the region is listed below. It is highly unlikely that you will come across even half of these but those you will see are sure to thrill you.
Nubian ibex – This animal was in danger of becoming extinct in Israel, and was saved by the 1964 Wild Animals Protection Law. Its muscular body and special leg structure enable it to the negotiate the steep rocky cliffs. It is difficult to spot Nubian ibexes when they are moving from cliff to cliff, but quite easy when they stop for a drink of water.
Leopard – The Negev highlands is one of the only places in Israel with a small yet vital population of this nocturnal feline.
Striped hyena – The striped hyena is a large canine scavenger.
Caracal – Recognizable by the large tufts of hair at the tips of its ears, the caracal is a large nocturnal feline.
Syrian hyrax – A small, brown-furred diurnal mammal, the Syrian hyrax lives in large groups between the rocks.
Lappet-faced vulture – This predatory subspecies is endemic to the Ramon region. The population of lappet-faced vultures was wiped out in the Negev, but perhaps can be revived, thanks to specimens which survived on the Arabian Peninsula.
Atractaspis engaddensis – This relatively thin, poisonous snake grows up to 80 centimeters long. The species is endemic to Israel and the Sinai Desert.
Poekilocerus bufonius – Black with yellow dots, this grasshopper eats poisonous plants from the milkweed family, from which it produces its venom.
Dorcas gazelle – The dorcas gazelle, or mountain gazelle, is smaller than the Gazella gazella found elsewhere in Israel. This population was endangered in the 1960s, but was saved thanks to the Wild Animals Protection Law.
Sand fox – The diet of this small nocturnal fox is varied: bugs, small rodents, fruits, and vegetables.
Fat desert rat – The saltbush is the mainstay of the diet of this large diurnal rodent. If fed sugar-rich food, the fat desert rat will develop diabetes.
Uromastyx aegyptius – This herbivorous, diurnal agama can grow to be up to 75 centimeters long.
Cairo spiny mouse – The body of this mouse-sized diurnal rodent is covered with sharp bristles.
Sand partridge – A characteristic desert bird, the sand partridge nests on the ground. Because of its heavy body, the sand partridge cannot fly far, and skirts danger by flying from one bank of the wadi to the other.
Lesser bustard – This large terrestrial bird lives primarily in open areas. The lesser bustard was hunted in the past because its meat was considered a delicacy. It still appears on the list of endangered species.
The large wadis in the Negev highland have a wealth of flora, including buckthorn, globe daisy, and woundwort. In the spring you can see lovely flowers in bloom, such as tulip, Jacob’s rod, and anemone.
One of the remarkable features of this habitat is the occurrence of large Pistacia atlantica trees at high elevations. Carub trees and Sumacs can also be found.
Since a great deal of water drains into the wadis, acacia trees can live there. Box thorn, ochradenus, broom, moricandia, cattail, and reed grow near the acacias. Saltwort, a plant with small, scaly leaves, is found where the ground is rich in gypsum.
Within the central Negev Highlands there are approximately 32 species of plants that are considered within the red list of endangered species of Israel.
Many different types of plants grow on the Ramon Ridge, with those of Irano-Turanian (central Asian) origin predominating. The bitter winter cold delays the main flowering season to late winter and spring, when the flowers bloom with amazing beauty.
The desert springs also produce a special habitat. Cattails and reeds grow tall near the fresh water. The rush, whose leaves have needle-like points, is evidence that there is groundwater close by, even if none is visible.
Farther from the water, especially in places where the ground is rather salty, you can spot nitraria, a plant with fleshy leaves, a grayish cast, and sweetish red fruit. Spiky camel-thorns and tamarisk trees grow near the nitraria. The small salt crystals dotting their leaves illustrate that they are equipped to actively rid themselves of the excess salt in the ground.
About 10 percent of the rocky surface of the Ramon Ridge is covered by bushes and shrubs. Wormwood, a grayish, highly fragrant shrub, can be seen almost everywhere. Bedouin folk medicine uses wormwoods to relieve stomach-aches and congestion.
The steep cliff facing the makhtesh is a vertical habitat, and therefore does not benefit from runoff water. Not surprisingly, typical desert plants, such as zygophyllum and gymnocarpus, are found here. Nonetheless, some characteristic Mediterranean flora, for example caper, sprout in the crevices. Desert shrubs, including gymnocarpus and anabasis, are the flora most commonly seen on the basalt stone, as well as on the limestone and sandstone in the makhtesh.
The makhtesh floor is drier and hotter than the ridge. Saharo-Indian flora (originating in the Sahara Desert and the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula) are most commonly seen here.